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Podcast: Russell Westbrook is gone, will James Harden stay?

David Weiner (“BimaThug”) joins Dave Hardisty as they talk about the Russell Westbrook-John Wall trade and the rapidly-changing Rockets



It goes without saying that 2020 has been one wild ride for everyone, and the Houston Rockets have been no exception to the rule.

COVID-19, the Bubble, the Lakers series debacle and the fallout — Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey are gone and now the Rockets have shipped out Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall (and his equivalent contract) and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick.

And oh yeah — James Harden tried to force a trade to the Brooklyn Nets.

David Weiner (Twitter | ClutchFans) joins Dave Hardisty on the ClutchFans Podcast to break down how much has changed so quickly.

  • The Russell Westbrook trade and the failed experiment in Houston
  • How John Wall might fit in with the Rockets.
  • James Harden — his role in the mess and will he buy in on the Rockets moving forward?
  • Daryl Morey and his legacy in Houston.
  • The tantalizing Christian Wood sign-and-trade deal.
  • Does DeMarcus Cousins (Boogie!) have anything left to give?
  • RIP, Sergio Llull’s draft rights and our streak of 47-straight podcasts predicting this could be the year he comes over.
  • The hard cap the Rockets are up against and how they can further improve the team.

  • Armed with a bizarre fascination for Mario Elie and a deep love of the Houston Rockets, Dave Hardisty started ClutchFans in 1996 under the pen name “Clutch”.

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    Houston Rockets

    Houston Rockets Prospects Power Rankings – Volume 1

    The Rockets are loaded with young prospects so let’s take a look at how they rank in order of importance to this team’s future




    Houston Rockets prospects

    It’s hard to believe, but Houston Rockets training camp opens later this month and the 2022-23 NBA season is right around the corner. Like a highly-anticipated second season of a popular show, the Rockets present a surprisingly-large amount of storylines that could go in a number of directions.

    The reason for that is simple: Houston, after using seven first-round picks in the last two drafts, is stocked with young talent. The upside, however, varies for each one. Here’s how I currently rank the Rocketss most valuable prospects for the future heading into camp.

    12. Bruno Fernando

    We don’t talk about Bruno.

    11. Daishen Nix Daishen Nix Houston Rockets

    I like Nix. I love what he’s doing in the G-League. I think he’s a solid point guard who is built like a tank. He has reshaped his body and clearly he’s putting in the work. He hit 30-76 (39.5%) from three in the G-League last year, which is a big improvement over his G-League Ignite season before the draft. But hitting less than 60% from the stripe for a guy who makes a living off of creating contact and getting to the line is a big issue. He’s got to make the leap from G-League dominator to Big-League contributor.

    10. Usman Garuba

    Garuba is capable of moving up the rankings quickly — if he’s healthy. The problem is he rarely was his rookie season, even missing Summer League in July. He’s representing Spain in EuroBasket, coming off the bench in a limited but important role. Garuba is smart and energetic, but I need his defense to shine, not just be solid. He will have every opportunity in camp to earn the backup center role. I admit I’m a little lower on him now than I was after the 2021 draft (where he was likely my favorite of the four picks, relative to position) but I still hold out hope he can be a valuable role player.

    9. KJ Martin

    We really don’t know what KJ Martin thinks, but we do know his father, former NBA star Kenyon Martin, wants his son out of Houston. In a way, I don’t blame him. Since the 2022 Draft, the writing is on the wall that his role could be reduced as the season goes on. Martin is a great cutter, unbelievable athlete and an improving shooter. His game is limited, however, and he will need to be playing off of great players to carve out a role as an energy athlete. Does that make him a trade candidate? Let’s see what the future holds here but my feeling is he won’t be a Rocket beyond this coming season.

    8. TyTy Washington TyTy Washington Rockets

    My hunch is that Washington ends up playing heavy minutes in the G-League. With KPJ starting and Nix in line ahead of TyTy for the backup role, meaningful minutes early in his rookie season are likely only to be found in the Valley. But I love what TyTy brings to the table — outside of consistent rim pressure, he can do a little bit of everything and has a good feel for the game. I expect him to be the backup, if not higher, by 2023-24. If he does go to RGV, we’ll be watching those games.

    7. Josh Christopher

    I try not to ever let Summer League performance impact my outlook on a prospect too much, but I confess I did just that with Jaygup. I thought he played very selfishly in Vegas when focusing on setting up his teammates would have gone a long way. He’s a tough dude with a legit NBA body for his position and has a scoring mentality. However, for a guy who drew Jrue Holiday projections from Rockets GM Rafael Stone, Christopher’s defense was fairly terrible in his rookie season. He’s got to get a better understanding of how to defend in schemes off the ball. He’s young and that part is fairly normal — that should come with time.

    6. Jae’Sean Tate

    I’m not sure the 26-year old Tate falls under the “prospect” category, but this is only his third season in the NBA and both the front office and coaching staff love him. Tate brings intangibles and is a valuable role player on just about any team. Can he develop a consistent three-point shot? He’s 31% from distance and that’s not going to consistently draw a defense and create space out there on the floor. This is a big thing holding him back. Given that he’s undersized, he has to improve there to unlock the next step.

    5. Kevin Porter Jr.

    This is the single most important season of KPJ’s career. I know it’s cliché but it’s very true in this case. We already know Porter Jr. is one of the better isolation scorers in the league and is tough for any one player to stop. We also know he showed improvement off the ball last season, hitting over 48% of his catch-and-shoot three-point attempts. But for me, success for Scoot this season in Houston won’t hinge on his scoring ability but rather how he, as the starting point, gets the Jalens and the Jabaris and the Senguns involved and puts them in positions to succeed. With a contract extension (if not signed before the season) hanging in the balance, I can’t overstate how important this season is for him.

    4. Alperen Sengun Alperen Sengun Turkey

    Sengun’s so happy and so are we watching him play. The man is an old-school human highlight reel. He might be the funnest player to watch on this team and his passing just wows you on a consistent basis. With Christian Wood gone, the starting center position is all Alperen’s. It’s up to Stephen Silas to leverage his unique skills on offense and allow him to conduct the show in a secondary role at times. My big concern with Sengun — and it’s admittedly large — continues to be his defense. It’s not a lack of will but simply a lack of athleticism and measurables that really hold him back. He needs to improve there to separate himself as a true starting center rather than an offensive spark off the bench, but the offensive upside here is really high.

    3. Tari Eason

    Eason checks nearly every single box for me. He’s built like Kawhi with a strong frame, huge hands and a long wingspan. There’s tremendous potential here as a defender, but he’s also a two-way player: He can create, he has shown improvement shooting the ball and he gets to the line. There’s no liability on either end of the floor, which is why I rank him this high. The only real question is his understanding of the game. If he takes to learning schemes, understanding sets on both ends and playing within the structure of an offense, the ceiling is much higher than just a role player here.

    2. Jabari Smith Jr. Jabari Smith Jr. Houston Rockets

    Jabari struggled making shots in Summer League and, surprise, surprise — that’s all some needed to project him as a disappointment. Let them run with that. This is a 19-year old who might end up being 6-foot-11, can shoot lights out and plays the game with a rare passion on both ends of the floor. While “The Locksmith” is earning that nickname, his defensive impact seems to be felt way beyond just a single assignment. Finding his way offensively will take time, however. I could go on and on about how high I am on Jabari — give me every share you’re selling. In my book, he and Jalen Green are the only locked-in core pieces in Houston at the present moment.

    1. Jalen Green

    Green already has an elite skill. His first step and electrifying athleticism will make it almost impossible for defenders to hang with him. In theory, he can get his shot off anytime he wants. If it becomes truly efficient? Look out. We could seriously be talking about a generational scorer here. Where he has to improve is, however, is everywhere else: Defense (both on and off the ball), handles, strength, physicality, playmaking. If his work ethic is the real deal, and it appeared to be in his rookie season, he will improve in those areas. Franchise cornerstone potential.

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    Rockets to add Willie Cauley-Stein

    Rockets bring backup center into a crowded Houston roster to compete for minutes at the five




    Willie Cauley-Stein Houston Rockets

    The Rockets are set to sign center Willie Cauley-Stein, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

    Cauley-Stein is expected to compete for the backup center minutes against the likes of Usman Garuba, Boban Marjanović and Bruno Fernando in training camp. Alperen Şengün all but has the starting center spot locked up.

    A former high-lottery pick, Cauley-Stein was taken 6th overall by the perenially-dreadful Sacramento Kings in the 2015 NBA Draft. However, the seven-footer never met expectations placed on him after a strong freshman season at Kentucky. In 422 games over seven seasons, WCS is averaging 8.7 points, 5.9 boards and 0.8 blocks in 22 minutes a night.

    It’s definitely not an earth-shattering move. Cauley-Stein was released by the Sixers last season in a move to create space to sign DeAndre Jordan, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. But the Rockets need options that differ from the strengths/weaknesses of Sengun and WCS has potential as a rim-running big.

    There is a current issue, however: The Rockets are already at the offseason maximum number of 20 players, so they will have to release someone before making the signing official. Marquese Chriss, Trey Burke and Sterling Brown all seem like potential candidates.

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    Interviewing Rockets legend Mario Elie

    ClutchFans interviews the Rockets great as he tells stories from behind the scenes of Houston’s 1994 and 1995 championship runs




    Mario Elie Houston Rockets

    When I started ClutchFans in 1996, Mario Elie was a big reason why. His toughness and grit was a big attraction and I even wrote a regular piece called “Super Mario’s World” that jokingly pretended to be from The Junkyard Dawg’s point of view.

    So it was pretty crazy to me to get the chance to be part of an interview of the Rockets legend on Thursday.

    Mario joined Lachard Binkley, host of the ClutchFans Rocket Fuel podcast, and I to discuss his career, how he worked on his game overseas, his championship runs with the Rockets, where Hakeem Olajuwon stands among NBA greats, the matchup with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls as well as his thoughts on the current Rockets — as well as several other topics.

    Mario didn’t pull any punches so it was a dream to get his insight on the championship Rockets. You can subscribe to Rocket Fuel on Apple and Spotify.

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    New ClutchFans T-Shirt: “WE GOT NEXT”

    Houston has paired Jalen and Jabari together and the future of basketball in Clutch City is bright




    Houston Rockets T-Shirt

    We launched over a month ago and the response has been overwhelming. I want to say thank you to everyone who ordered a shirt and shows it off on social media. It’s been a lot of fun to see.

    We want to continue to bring fun ideas from the Houston sports fan community to life on wearable gear and swag. On Wednesday, we dropped our first new shirt since the launch, dedicated to Houston’s new dynamic duo.


    Houston Rockets Shirt Houston Rockets Shirt Houston Rockets Shirt Houston Rockets Shirt

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    The Houston Rockets draft… JABARI SMITH JR!!!

    Clutch & Bima get together to discuss yet another A+ NBA Draft for the Houston Rockets as they land Bari, Tari and TyTy




    What a draft night!

    The Rockets came away with some incredible fortune last week as Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr., who many felt was the #1 pick, fell to #3 and the rest is history. Jabari is now set as part of the future in Clutch City.

    It wasn’t just Jabari that was the good fortune, either. The Rockets snagged LSU forward Tari Eason with the 17th pick and picked up Kentucky point guard TyTy Washington and a couple of second-round picks late in the draft.

    Dave Hardisty (@clutchfans) and David Weiner (@bimathug) discuss on the podcast the 2022 NBA Draft and how the Rockets came away with Bari, Tari and TyTy — what looks like another impressive haul for Rockets GM Rafael Stone. They also discuss possible Eric Gordon trades and the state of the Rockets rebuild.

    A huge shout out to all our supporters over the years. Thanks for subscribing to the pod!

    ClutchFans Podcast: On Apple | Spotify

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