#4: Houston Rockets
The Rockets are on the rise, but they haven’t gotten there yet. Kevin Porter, Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, and Kenyon Martin Jr. are a solid young core, but they have minimal veteran leadership aside from Eric Gordan.
In four years or so, Houston could land at the top of this list, but that day hasn’t come yet. Jalen Green is a poor defender, and while they have volume scoring, they lack efficiency, order, and discipline. For now, that is.
It doesn’t help that the top three teams in the division are all solid playoff teams, and Houston isn’t there yet. By the end of the season, they might embrace tanking efforts, but as the season starts, they should try and play competitive basketball and get their young stars some valuable experience.
#3: New Orleans Pelicans
Between Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and CJ McCollum, the Pelicans have a very good big three. Jonas Valanciunas and Jose Alvarado ought to round out the starting five, and if Zion returns to full strength, this team could be very dangerous.
Ingram is a former All-Star and recently received Kevin Durant comparisons, and CJ McCollum has consistently been one of the best second options in recent years. If Alvarado keeps up his bulldog defense and his gimmicks work, he could establish himself as a solid defender.
The Pelicans have high-level scorers in Williamson, Ingram, and McCollum, so Valanciunas and Alvarado can be role players, giving New Orleans a very exciting and talented team.