Houston is now loaded with young talent. What is the way forward with roles?
Well, it feels completely good to be back writing for the Dream Shake again. After my much-needed hiatus, I found clarity to write again. Hopefully today’s content will excuse my past absence. So let’s get down to business.
Rafael Stone is in a great situation as the GM for the Houston Rockets. He was criticized by spectators about the trade haul he received from James Harden and also took some flak for the Christian Wood deal. Stone received three first round picks from the Brooklyn Nets draft picks, which are for 2022, 2024 (including a second-round pick for that year), and 2026.
However, Brooklyn’s trio of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant (now down to just Durant and Irving) is not working out, as their chemistry never connected because of injuries. Ever since Harden left, the Nets and Irving are having trust issues. Irving dealt with injuries, mental episodes, and COVID-19 related rules in the last three season with the Nets. Brooklyn could be over Irving’s antics, as there has been trade rumors for him, which could also cause Durant to leave. If a trade for Durant and Irving happens, the Rockets will get better draft value in 2024 and 2026.
Besides the Rockets’ draft stock improving in the next two years, they had an exciting 2022 draft night. Stone was blindsided by the decision of the Orlando Magic, as that organization selected Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 section in the NBA Draft. The Rockets targeted Banchero throughout, as Jabari Smith was projected to go in the top slot.
Since Banchero went first in the draft, the Rockets selected Smith at the No. 3 pick, which was a steal. Smith is arguably the best player in the draft. His upside could be similar to Durant when he fully develops in the NBA.
The Rockets also selected 6’9” Tari Eason and the talented guard TyTy Washington with their late two first-round picks. Honestly, the Rockets could have one of the best team’s on defense in the next two-years. Their roster is full of length, athleticism, speed, and playmaking.
Stephan Silas will have his hands full with this talented roster. Smith is guaranteed to start. But there will be heartbreaks when it comes to playing time. Kenyon Martin Jr. has reportedly asked for a trade because he believes his playing time could be affected.
Besides Martin, the Rockets also have Jae’Sean Tate, Garrison Matthews, Daishen Nix, Josh Christopher, and Usman Garuba on the roster too. Silas will give everyone a fair chance to prove their worth on the court in training camp, as his future could be on the line this season.
Making sure players understand the system and roles will be important. Spectators already know that Green, Porter, Smith, and Alperen Sengun solidified their minutes but need a supporting cast around them.
Honestly, seeing Eason starting over Tate could be a better look for the lineup because of his 7’2” wingspan and height. Although he was the SEC Sixth Man of the Year’ Eason could make a leap to the starting lineup because of his upside.
He became an improved three-point shooter from his previous season at Cincinnati. At LSU, Eason shot 35.9 percent from three, a big leap from shooting 24.9 percent at the three-point line in the previous season. Eason will provide the same role that Herb Jones did for the New Orleans Pelicans.
In the last two seasons, Tate has only shot 31 percent from three. Providing better shooting around Green, Sengun, Porter, and Smith is the best thing to do.
The Rockets will probably send Washington to the G-League so they can truly evaluate him. While the Rockets monitor Washington, Nix will have a chance to provide backup minutes for Porter, as he played on the Rio Grande Vipers mostly last season and improved throughout the year. Nix is a great playmaker and knows how to affect the passing lanes. He averaged 5 assists per game for the Vipers, many of which were creative no-look passes.
Matthews gave the Rockets a great display of shooting and athleticism on the wing. He proved his shooting while running around set screens and taking contested shots for the Rockets. He shot an overall 36 percent from three, which included a 36.8 percent in the catch-and-shoot method at the three-point line.
But Christopher could become more valuable than Matthews because of his improvement from last season and this offseason. He is the perfect sixth man for the Rockets. Christopher is a creative basketball player that can do a lot. He isn’t a selfish player because he is always looking to pass first.
Christopher could play a similar role Harden played for the Oklahoma City Thunder when he was a younger player in the NBA. Per 100 possessions, he averaged 20.6 points with 5 assists per game while having shooting splits of 44.8/29.6/73.5. The Rockets could be more effective with Porter and Green on the wings, as Christopher runs the offense. That will allow Porter to have a decent break if Nix isn’t in the game too.
I’d love to see Garuba get playing time because of his defensive and rebounding skills. He is a powerful player and can be resourceful by backing up Sengun. Hopefully, he understands the pick-and-roll assignments and dominates throughout the game because he hustles. Garuba’s athletic ability will allow him to play against any big in the NBA. He is a strong athlete that can defend and catch lobs.
The Rockets will be consistently looking for trade partners so Eric Gordon can find a new home. They have reportedly asked for a future first-round pick. It’s becoming more possible for the Phoenix Suns to take a shot since they’re shopping Jae Crowder. The Suns and Rockets could involve Crowder and Gordon in a three-team trade so can they end up on a respectable team. If a first-round pick is involved, Stone will likely accept.
Stone and Silas will have their hands full throughout the season. Fertitta puts all his trust in Stone, as the baby Rockets need to develop. This season will be important for Green, so putting the right pieces around him is important. Stone mentioned this at the recent press conference:
“We are rebuilding. We are rebuilding in the best way we can. We are making every decision, whether to pick it, trade it, or whatever. We are going to make the best decision we can. Tilman has made it clear to me that the job is to get to the end goal. We don’t have an infinite amount of time to get there, but as long as we think that decision is the right one at that time, then that is the way we will go.”