NBA Playoffs: Ranking the teams most likely to return to the playoffs in 2024

Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks - Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks - Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
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James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers -Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Potential 2024 Playoff Team #4: Houston Rockets

This may seem like a stretch, but hear me out. Although the Rockets just turned in an awful season full of miscues on both ends, stagnation from development of their young players, and a difficult path to contention, they have a few things working in their favor.

The young players for Houston, despite having a number of warts to their games right now, are collectively one of the more exciting groups in the entire NBA. Jalen Green can get to the rim at will and is slowly learning the nuances of NBA offense. Jabari Smith Jr. has rebounded from a tough rookie start and has remained the deadeye he was in college. With more minutes, Alperen Sengun has emerged as a real offensive hub and cornerstone for the team.

The Rockets rank in the bottom five of both offensive and defensive rating this year in the NBA, but when the flashes are there, they burn brightly. It’s not hard to imagine in a few years that this team and combination of young studs could morph into a playoff power to rule the roost of the west:

So why are the Rockets listed as a team that can make the playoffs next year?

That comes from the reading of subtle signs being put out into the greater NBA media and the draft capital that the team has this year. They’re in a prime position to draft Victor Wembanyama or another top prospect, which will boost their ceiling.

More importantly, however, is the smoke surrounding James Harden’s desire to return to the city and team where he won his MVP trophy. If Harden returns, he’d immediately organize and galvanize Houston’s offense with the weapons around him. If everything breaks right with both Harden and Wembanyama, the Rockets could go from one of the most difficult aesthetic watches this year in the NBA to one of the most exciting “young” teams we’ve seen in 2024.