Weekly Rockets Rundown

Westbrook, Rockets Ranks, and more

Rockets.com

Welcome to the Rockets Rundown. It's the offseason, and I've been on a bit of a hiatus, but I'm back to give a weekly recap of everything Rockets related until tip off next season. There's plenty to get to, so let's have at it.

Westbrook rumblings

Now that MVP candidate Paul George has (understandably) changed landscapes from the open plains of Oklahoma to the sunny beaches of California, Russell Westbrook is left holding the check with the Thunder. With all signs pointing to a rebuild mode in OKC, Westbrook appears all but gone.

Of course when a superstar is involved in trade rumblings, so to is Rockets' General Manager Daryl Morey. It was no surprise then that when the prospect of Westbrook being made available became known, murmurs of the Rockets' interest also crept through the pipeline.

Could the Rockets trade for Westbrook? It's possible. As built, Houston isn't exactly resplendent with trade chips. They're not devoid however, either. It would probably take some serious multi-team calculus of a trade to make it work, but it could. Should you expect it? Not really.

Now if it did happen? Well that's something you'd want for sure. Everyone said James Harden and Chris Paul wouldn't work, and then they ripped off a league-best 65 wins. I'd be more than happy to watch that experiment unfold, if anything to prove that the Rockets can, in fact, become even more dramatic and petty than their current iteration.

Where the Rockets stand

The Warriors are a shell of themselves, the Lakers got their guy in Anthony Davis, and the Clippers defense got extra salty. Meanwhile, the Rockets resigned their guys. Nothing flashy.

So where should they rank headed into next season?

If your answer was top three, you'd be close.

If predictive analytics are your jam, the guys over at fivethirtyeight.com have the Rockets number one in the west next season, and second overall to a 76ers team that looks to benefit from some addition by subtraction.

If you're looking for a more grounded reasoning for optimism, remember that the only team that has won more games in the last three years than the Rockets (174) is the Warriors (182). The Rockets lost none of their starters, and kept every meaningful bench piece. Sometimes being boring is a good thing. We'll find out this fall.

More offseason rumblings

  • It looks like a reunion between Chris Paul and center Tyson Chandler is looking more and more likely, as the Rockets have reportedly targeted the former defensive player of the year as a backup big man.
  • It's not quite the award Harden was aiming for, but the NBA Players Association announced on Tuesday that The Beard was voted "Toughest to Guard" for the 2018-2019 season. P.J. Tucker also took home hardware as the 2019 Sneaker Champ, because that is a thing that players vote on apparently.
  • Former Rockets assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik--widely credited with the Rockets defensive turnaround the past two seasons--looks to be close to finding a new home with the New Orleans Pelicans. Bzdelik was let go at the end of the season.

Not Rockets related at all

Stranger Things 3 was awesome. And so was Spider-Man.

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10th-ranked UH looks poised for a great season

Here's why UH could make a deep tournament run

The Coogs are off to a hot start. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Through eleven COVID stricken weeks, the University of Houston football team has mustered three wins.

The UH men's basketball season began on November 25th. It took them five days to catch up.

The Cougars came into last week ranked 17th in the nation in the AP preseason poll, the highest they've begun a season in 37 years. They took little time to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the nation.

UH shot out of the gate last week to a 3-0 start, including a double-digit win over 14th ranked Texas Tech. That, combined with a myriad of week one upsets, sent the Cougars soaring even further up the rankings.

By Monday afternoon, Houston was already one of the top 10 ranked teams in the nation.

Now it's important to note that it's incredibly early in the season, and there is plenty of time for something to go haywire. With TDECU stadium right across the street, they've had a front row seat to see just how sideways COVID can flip a season. The football team may only have 3 wins, but that's partly because they've had to postpone 5 games.

Regardless, they remain 10th in the nation at the moment, and it's no fluke. This is a solid team that has shown glimpses for the past three years.

Led offensively by sophomore guard Marcus Sasser (17.3 ppg) and Kansas transfer guard Quentin Grimes (16.0 ppg), the Cougars field a deep backcourt that has received welcome early contributions from freshman Tramon Mark (14.0 ppg) who's already earned an average of 19 minutes per game.

Speaking of minutes, UH brings one of the most important skills to the court this season: experience. In the era of one-and-done turnover among NCAA programs, the Cougars bring back four players that averaged over 20 minutes per game last season. That type of experience playing with one another and understanding the system head coach Kelvin Sampson plays could prove invaluable come tournament time.

What truly gives this team a shot though is their defense and hustle, both of which are a direct result of Sampson. They're simply relentless on defense. After finishing 11th in the nation last season only allowing 62.1 ppg, they've shown no signs of letting up. Through their first three games they've given up an average of 52 ppg. Even with double-digit leads, this is still a team diving for loose balls and mixing it up for offensive rebounds.

All of those ingredients make for a very salty, and very entertaining college basketball team. The Cougars have proved in the past three seasons that they're legitimately tournament worthy, and as the preseason American Conference champion favorite, this is a team that could—and should—have their eyes set even higher than their sweet sixteen appearance in 2019. Nothing is certain in the COVID era, however, but if they can make it through the season relatively unscathed they should be a tough out during March Madness.

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