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Rafael Stone, Stephen Silas prioritizing development over wins in 2022-23

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There will come a time — possibly as soon as the 2023-24 season, which is a little over a year away — where wins will be the primary emphasis for the Houston Rockets. But that time is not in 2022-23.

For at least one more season, the emphasis will be on developing the talented young core of prospects headlined by Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Kevin Porter Jr., and newly drafted rookie Jabari Smith.

If wins come as part of their development, the Rockets are fine with that. But they insist that they will not chase wins by prioritizing veterans ahead of minutes and/or touches for those blue-chip young players.

Via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon:

General manager Rafael Stone: What we want is to see improvement, to see improvement, to see improvement. As long as we’re seeing that, we’re pretty happy with the rebuild, and I was definitely happy with last year.

You don’t want to stunt their growth by trying to steal a win here or there. Philosophically, we’re very cognizant of that. If your goal is to put together a team that’s really growing, it is different than a team that’s going to try to maximize every win.

Head coach Stephen Silas: The priority is development right now, and along with development comes winning habits and doing things the right way. Hopefully, that leads to some wins, but development is the priority.

Future draft and salary obligations likely play into their thinking, as well. The upcoming 2022-23 season is the last year until 2026-27 for the Rockets to fully control their own draft pick, since Oklahoma City’s draft assets from Houston’s Chris Paul-Russell Westbrook trade come back into play with the 2023-24 season and continue for two years after that.

In other words, the Rockets may need to maximize their 2023 draft haul since that will be their last internal pick for some time (they will still have assets from Brooklyn). The 2023 offseason is also when the Rockets are currently positioned to have significant salary cap room to add to their roster, thanks in large part to the expiring salaries of veterans like John Wall and Eric Gordon rolling off the books after next season.

At that point, with Green and Sengun entering their third NBA season, the Rockets may organizationally shift to a more win-oriented culture. For now, it’s about development, and they all seem to be in alignment.

“I am a big believer in going all-in,” Stone told MacMahon. “Whether it is to go all-in to rebuild, or all-in to win a championship.”

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