The Rockets could easily have made moves in the past two seasons to avoid finishing with the NBA’s worst records. Yet, the emphasis on prospect development and draft capital — even at the expense of short-term losses, embarrassment, and perhaps fewer ticket purchases — now has Houston’s post-James Harden rebuild in an enviable spot.
While third-year general manager Rafael Stone deserves much of the credit for the organizational philosophy, it’s also required the backing of Rockets ownership, starting with Tilman Fertitta.
In the latest The Lowe Post podcast, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon explains:
The one thing I will say about Tilman now, rebuilding is not fun for a guy who spent $2.2 billion to buy an NBA franchise. But he is listening to Rafael Stone, and the rest of his front office. To his son, Patrick, who works on a day-to-day basis with those guys. He’s not trying to fast track it.
He’s saying, ‘Okay, you guys are telling me this is what’s best’ — and they’re not just telling him, but showing him and convincing him, with facts — and he is being patient. He’s understanding that this is about the development of young players. Then, next year (2023-24), at that point, wins might start to be something that really matters, as far as tracking the progress of the Rockets.
The Rockets portion of the podcast discussion between MacMahon and ESPN colleague Zach Lowe can be heard starting at 59:30.
There’s still a long way to go in the rebuild, of course. Houston needs Jabari Smith Jr. to pan out as a potential star from his high pick in the 2022 NBA draft, just as it appears Jalen Green is on the verge of doing after his selection by the Rockets a year ago. They also need to hit on their own pick in the 2023 draft, which appears likely to again be high in the order thanks to the emphasis on prospect development.
Many hard decisions still need to be made, but the path back to NBA relevancy — and perhaps a lot more — is clearly visible. Stone deserves credit for the blueprint, and fortunately, ownership is backing him.
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