Houston Rockets Take Next Step in Rebuilding Process After Successful 2023 Draft

Brian Barefield | 6/28/2023, 12:35 p.m.
It has been three years since the Houston Rockets have been labeled as "winners" regarding things on and off the …
Houston Rockets Coach Ime Udoka and General Manager Rafael Stone with new players Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore

It has been three years since the Houston Rockets have been labeled as "winners" regarding things on and off the court. In order to bring some relevance back to the team, the organization has a three-phase plan in place, and after Thursday night's 2023 NBA Draft, they are already winning the second phase.

Phase one of their rebuild started with the departure of veteran superstars such as James Harden and Russell Westbrook, along with general manager Daryl Morey, who was the architect of the extended playoff runs. It ended with the non-renewal of head coach Stephen Silas's contract at the end of the 2022 regular season, following three consecutive years of the team finishing as one of the worst in the league.

Phase two started with a bang as Houston hired former Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, who led the team to an NBA Finals appearance in his only season. His presence will be felt on the sidelines and in the locker room. The former NBA player and coach under San Antonio Spurs legend Gregg Popovich was heavily pursued by many teams for their head coaching vacancy during the postseason. The shift in dynamics when it came to hiring a coach who could help the young Rockets' roster take the next step can be considered a victory for the organization. If that is the case, general manager Rafael Stone should be preparing to take another victory lap.

Houston was a big winner in the draft on Thursday with the additions of Amen Thompson at No. 4 from Overtime Elite and Cam Whitmore at No. 20 from Villanova. "I think Houston has a lot of players that have great potential, and I think [we] have a scary future," Thompson said. Adding those pieces to a roster that consists of Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Şengün, and Tari Eason makes Houston one of the most exciting teams in the NBA.

"We are athletic," said Stone with a smile during his post-draft press conference. "I think we can jump. So, I think we already were [athletic], and we doubled down. It is never a bad thing to be a hyper-athletic team, and I think we will be just that."

Now the responsibility of making everything come together on the court to translate into wins will be left up to Ime Udoka and his staff. Stone has provided most of the necessary pieces to make the Rockets competitive next season but still needs to find more veteran presence in the free-agent market to produce victories and complete phase two.

For owner Tilman Fertitta, phase three consists of playoff runs that will lead to NBA championships. It is too early for the Rockets to consider hanging another banner in the Toyota Center. Still, they could begin thinking about a parade route throughout the city in about five years if the team develops as projected.