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NBA Odds: The Rockets are a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

Houston wants you to take them seriously. Should you?

Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

The Rockets have been an unmitigated disaster since James Harden’s departure. During one particular post practice interview, Eric Gordon was asked how the young Rockets had improved during his time there. His response was, “we haven’t.” It was a telling quote and helped cement the fact that the organization as a whole was mired in dysfunction both on and off the court.

Houston Rockets (Over/Under 31.5 Wins)

Key Adds - Ime Udoka (Coach), Fred Van Vleet, Dillon Brooks, Jeff Green, Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore

Key Losses - Josh Christopher, Usman Garuba, Eric Gordon, Kenyon Martin Jr., Garrison Matthews, Daishen Nix, Ty Ty Washington

This line is fascinating. The Rockets won 20 games last year, but most will look at this line and think that it’s too low. For Houston to hit the over, they would have to win 12 more games than they did last year. In a vacuum, it seems like adding Fred Van Vleet and Dillon Brooks, while replacing their coach and underperforming players should be enough for them to hit the over. Or should it? A double-digit win total jump is massive.

Fred Van Vleet is a very good player, but I question how far you can go if he’s the team’s best player. My personal hatred for Dillon Brooks aside, he, too, is a very good player and can impact the game on both sides of the ball. If he’s the fourth or fifth starter a team is probably in good shape. If he’s the second or third-best player, recently signed a huge deal that could further embolden his questionable shot-taking and has made it clear he is looking for an expanded role, that should give cause for concern.

But isn’t Jalen Green is their best player? He, without question, is the most talented player on the Rockets but empty stats need to eventually translate into wins. He rebounded after a rough start to the season and showed flashes, but he must buy into the culture that the veterans and coach Udoka are hoping to establish. After seeing Dillon Brooks hoist up a terrible 3 on offense, will he get back in transition? If Fred Van Vleet has the ball in his hands during crunch time, how will that affect him?

The Rockets will have a much better offense this season. It may be clunky at times, but I trust that FVV will operate as the floor general and make sure players are held accountable. The question is whether or not the Rockets will be able to get stops when it matters. Can Ime Udoka build a league-average defense with Alperen Sengun at center? Cam Whitmore and Amen Thompson look like promising players, but their development will surely come at the expense of wins and losses. Overall, there are simply too many questions about this team for me to feel comfortable betting the over. Udoka seems like a no-nonsense type of guy and he, alongside the vets, will look to instill a sense of accountability. For this season, the young Rockets will learn what it means to be professional basketball players. I’m just not sure they’ll get the chance to learn what it means to be winners.

PREDICTION - Under 31.5 Wins