The Houston Rockets are at the bottom of the Western Conference for a second consecutive season. While the franchise continues to search for an identity post-James Harden, head coach Stephen Silas is supposedly on the hot seat.
The Rockets are 27-80 under Silas. That’s terrible, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Houston firing Silas during the regular season would be absurd. He didn’t create the situation the organization finds itself in, that being crying for help in the sport’s cellar.
Here’s why the Rockets shouldn’t fire Silas.
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Houston Rockets put Stephen Silas in unthinkable predicaments
Roughly 15 months ago, the Rockets were eliminated in the second round of the NBA Playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers. The franchise was turned on its axis after this series.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey parted ways with the Rockets. They hired Silas to replace D’Antoni as head coach while promoting Rafael Stone to general manager. What happened after that? Well, Harden decided he wanted to be traded. Shortly after Harden’s trade wish became public, the Rockets sent Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a future first-rounder.
With the situation dragging into the regular season, Harden was absent from team activities. He held out and essentially said he did everything he could for the Rockets after a January loss to the Lakers. He was traded to the Brooklyn Nets the next day for a bevy of draft picks in what was a multi-team transaction. This came after the team decided to become a small-ball operation midway through the previous season, moving Clint Capela in a multi-team trade where they received Robert Covington. That changed the dynamic of their roster.
How did Wall fare in his debut season with the Rockets? He appeared in 40 games and was highly productive only to be shut down for the season in the closing moments, as the organization wanted to improve its odds of winning the NBA Draft Lottery. How is he doing this season? Well, Wall is making $44 million to watch the team play because the Rockets don’t want him taking minutes away from their young players. By the way, P.J. Tucker was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.
When Silas joined the Rockets, he was taking over a team with stars and championship aspirations. Then they abruptly became a rebuilding team in the Western Conference. How is this Silas’ fault?
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Houston Rockets’ roster has upside
Yes, the Rockets are the 15th seed in the West. What they have going for them, though, is a talented young roster with upside.
Christian Wood has become one of the best offensive big men in the NBA. He’s an athletic finisher who can score off the dribble and stretch the floor. Kevin Porter Jr., who was acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, has become someone who can handle the rock, distribute and score off the dribble.
Rookie Jalen Green is explosive off the dribble and has the potential to be a high-level scorer. Jae’Sean Tate has been a scrappy scorer who hits the boards. Garrison Matthews is a respectable shooter. Alperen Sengun is a versatile frontcourt player. Kenyon Martin Jr. has been a jolt scorer.
- Christian Wood stats (2021-22): 17.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game while shooting 47.0/35.0/61.0
Roughly two-thirds of this roster is 26 or younger. It’s a matter of player development and gradually winning games at an encouraging clip. That’s not all going to happen this season. Simultaneously, the Rockets as a whole have recently shown signs of life, most notably winning seven games in a row and taking playoff teams down to the wire.
There’s an amplitude of young depth present. That’s all any rebuilding team, especially one in the West, can ask for.
Houston Rockets should let Stephen Silas finish the season
Firing Silas at or before the NBA trade deadline doesn’t accomplish anything for the Rockets. He should be able to see the season through.
At the end of the day, if a rebuilding team is going to eventually make the playoffs, they need their youth to make tangible strides. That comes from having a coaching staff that can develop talent. Silas and company haven’t been able to breathe and develop this team because of the uncertainty that has surrounded their jobs and the franchise.
It’s a long season. There are teams that come out of the gate strong and gradually fade. Meanwhile, there are teams who get out to awful starts and then turn a corner down the stretch. Houston is doing the latter to a degree this season, as they’ve been competitive over the last month. It’s feasible to think they can leapfrog fellow rebuilding/lost teams in the West like the Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings.
Is Silas the reason for the Rockets’ catastrophic last 12 months? He is not. Is he the answer to their problems? We don’t know. In letting him coach out the season, the Rockets get to see if their roster progresses under Silas’ watch and can therefore make a more educated decision on his future at the end of the season.
The Houston Rockets have been a mess. Stephen Silas was brought in to retool a contending team. They should see what he can do for a raw team in need of direction.