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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Ben DuBose

Where Bleacher Report ranks Rockets players in 2023-24 season

The 2023-24 NBA regular season (schedule) starts slightly later than usual; the Houston Rockets opener is Wednesday, Oct. 25 in Orlando. One reason for the delay is likely the ongoing FIBA Basketball World Cup, in which newly signed forward Dillon Brooks is playing a key role for Canada.

The late start means a longer-than-usual slow period in the NBA calendar: 2023-24 training camps don’t open until early October. As a result, many players and coaches around the league are on vacation as they soak up their last moments of free time for months.

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Many remain diligent with offseason training regimens, as well.

With that in mind, it’s a good time to take inventory on where things stand heading into a new season. Bleacher Report recently ranked its top 30 guards, wings and bigs entering 2023-24, along with a look at its top 100 overall players. Here’s where Houston players ended up.

Fred VanVleet: No. 24 in guards, No. 59 overall

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Bleacher Report’s analysis:

Fred VanVleet is equal parts fearless and relentless. He wouldn’t be in this spot — inking a $130 million pact as a (generously listed?) 6-foot-0 point guard who entered the league as an undrafted free agent — without those traits.

Houston needed a culture change, and he should be the perfect leader to usher one in.

However, he’ll turn 30 soon, and you wonder if the aging process could be unkind to him on the court. He has always had trouble scoring inside the arc, and his 3-point splash rate took a huge hit last season (career-worst 34.2%).

For all that VanVleet offers as an on-court communicator and connector, he’ll have trouble handling so many minutes and touches if he can’t get his shooting back on track.

Jalen Green: No. 80 overall, honorable mention in guards

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Bleacher Report’s analysis:

From 17.3 points as a rookie to 22.1 points as a sophomore, Jalen Green is in position to make a third-year jump into a tier with the NBA’s top scoring guards.

Whether it gets him into the All-Star game will come down to efficiency and avoiding the empty-stat criticisms. But few in the league can match Green’s combination of explosiveness, self-creation skill and shot-making.

He needs to find more ways to earn easier baskets, but teams want players who can consistently go for 25 points, and Green figures to be one of them at some point in the near future.

Picking his spots better and converting more often from deep should put him on a path to the NBA’s top 50 by 2024-25.

Jabari Smith Jr.: No. 25 in bigs, No. 84 overall

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Bleacher Report’s analysis:

Smith terrorized summer league in Las Vegas, looking like a No. 3 overall pick who showed real growth throughout his rookie season.

His 6-foot-11 frame and 7-foot-1 wingspan allow Smith to swallow up opposing forwards on defense while hitting jumpers over top of them on the other end. The 20-year-old has true superstar potential and will hopefully see his role continue to grow on a Rockets team that now features far more veterans than a season ago.

Alperen Sengun: No. 24 in bigs, No. 82 overall

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bleacher Report’s analysis:

With a bigger sophomore role, Alperen Şengün improved his scoring efficiency and showcased more of the passing skill that’s going to separate him from post centers.

He’s gone from older-school big man pre-draft to super versatile in Houston with his crafty footwork, improved ball-handling and vision. It feels like frequent triple-doubles could be coming for the 21-year-old, who’s also emerged as one of the tougher rebounders.

Coach Ime Udoka will want to see him improve defensively and look better when switched out in space. And he took a step backward last season as a 3-point shooter.

However, Şengün may wind up being so good with the ball in his hands that Udoka will be hesitant to take him off the floor.

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