James Harden noted he was disappointed by Danuel House's exit from the NBA bubble after Houston was eliminated in the 2020 playoffs, and there's little question as to why. House established himself as a key cog for the Rockets on both ends of the floor throughout 2019-20, and he served as another piece in the Rockets' defensive wall against LeBron James and Anthony Davis. House's departure from the bubble only exacerbated Houston's lack of size. As House left Orlando, so did the Rockets' Finals hopes.
The difficult end to House and Houston's season creates an interesting dynamic entering 2020-21. House will return to the Rockets needing to regain the trust of Harden and the rest of his teammates, and his spot in Houston's rotation will be decided by a new coach. So what exactly can we expect from House next season? The final months of 2019-20 should provide a blueprint.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey took a low-risk flyer on House last offseason after the Texas A&M product flashed talent in a limited sample in 2018-19. House was given a three-year, $11 million deal in July 2019, and for the most part, he's more than lived up to the deal. House was arguably the most effective non-MVP on Houston's roster for spurts throughout the season, and his size and skill helped an unconventional roster thrive. House's bubble mishap was inexcusable. But let's not let that completely cloud his future. We should continue to see House grow as an impact player in 2020-21.
The 6'6" forward meets all the criteria for a Houston wing in the Harden era. House is comfortable covering smaller guards and larger forwards, allowing the Rockets to switch everything with relative ease. He's improved as a rotational defender and his length is impactful. House is effective on the defensive end, albeit not spectacular.
House's offense growth in 2019-20 was more notable. He shot a solid 36.5% on catch-and-shoot threes in 2019-20, and his quick trigger from beyond the arc fit right in with Harden and Co. Yet House proved to be far more than just a standstill shooter. His first step is quick and he's an impressive leaper, and while House may lead the NBA in missed dunks, he's shown increasingly more discernment on forays into the lane. Russell Westbrook is a non-threat from three. P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington are most comfortable as stationary shooters. House provides a nice blend of shooting and playmaking alongside Harden.
There will need to be a bit of a thawing process for House and his teammates after a disappointing end to 2019-20. The Rockets entered the playoffs with legitimate Finals hopes, and while a loss vs. Los Angeles was likely even with House, his exit effectively ended Houston's season. But there's now little use in looking back. Take away House's bubble mistake, and this past season marked a period of serious growth for the young forward. Harden and the Rockets will need House's progression to continue to truly compete for the Larry O'Brien Trophy in 2020-21.