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Jeremy Lin’s Big Test

Carl Fudge analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of Jeremy Lin and stresses the importance of the Rocket point guard getting out of the gate strong.



Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley

For the third straight year, Jeremy Lin comes into a Rockets training camp with a different role to play

Houston Rocket training camps have been interesting times for Jeremy Lin. Cut from the team two years ago, the 25-year old point guard returned to Houston last season as a flashy free agent acquisition following his unprecedentedly “Linsane” performances in New York. Houston general manager Daryl Morey prized the resurgent Harvard grad away from the Knicks with an infamous poison pill contract as Lin looked set to install himself as Houston’s point guard of the future, team leader and global icon that had been missing since Yao Ming retired.

How things have changed.

As training camp sets to kick off this weekend, Lin finds himself starting alongside All-Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard in a powerful lineup that has legitimate championship aspirations. While Lin was front and center of the team’s marketing efforts last season, this year he has seemed a secondary figure, hardly being featured in the team’s marketing campaigns and not called upon to help recruit Dwight. While Lin was the unquestioned choice as the team’s starting point guard last season, legitimate questions exist about his role on the team this year. Make no mistake, this is a pivotal time in Jeremy Lin’s career as a Rocket.

Just how good was Lin in 2012-2013?

No player in recent memory has sparked as much debate as the Rockets’ #7. Given the amount of attention and analysis he has generated since his Linsanity days, it can be hard to understand the real story and – to borrow a phrase from Nate Silver – separate the signal from the noise.

Let’s start with some of the things Lin did well.

2012-2013 was Jeremy Lin’s first full season as a Houston Rocket and as a starting point guard. He started every single game of the regular season, logging the third highest amount of minutes on the roster and guiding the team to a winning record and playoff berth.

Lin’s averages last year – 13.4 points, 3 rebounds and 6.1 assists – were solid but perhaps a bit underwhelming to fans who had hoped for Linsanity numbers and didn’t factor in his lower usage rate on the Rockets (20.7%) compared to his time on the Knicks (28%). While some fans questioned Lin’s performance, Morey clearly laid out why he was happy with his point guard’s debut season during an interview on CBS Sports Radio 610 back in May, saying:

Jeremy had a great year. The only way to think about Jeremy maybe not having a great year would be to say he had to play the whole year like he did in New York. James and Omer generated the most wins for our team but Jeremy Lin was third and on a 45-win team to make the playoffs and be the starter, he had a great season.

He’s the fifth-best pick and roll player in the league on nine pick and rolls a game. Overall, he really helped our offense, set up his teammates very well. On defense people focus a little bit too much on Tony Parker maybe did well against him, or some of these super fast guards, but the reality is those players do really well against everybody. On average, Jeremy had a very good defensive year, he’s very good at 50-50 balls, he’s very good at distributing the ball, and one of the top players in blocked shots and steals. So, overall, he had an extremely good year and we’re nowhere near the playoffs without Jeremy Lin.

Morey’s analysis, as always, is backed up by the numbers. Jeremy Lin was indeed the 5th best NBA pick-and-roll point guard in terms of points created for the roll man, setting up Rocket screeners nicely as they cut to the basket. This stat is even more impressive considering the somewhat limited offensive skillset of the recipient of most of those passes, Omer Asik. As I laid out in my last piece, the pick-and-roll is a fundamental part of the Rockets’ offense, and with Dwight Howard now on the floor, Lin and the Rockets will only become more dangerous in this facet of the game.

Lin was a good distributor of the ball in other parts of the offense last season too, dishing out 497 total assists (15th best in the NBA) at 6.1 assists per game (20th best). The majority of Lin’s assists led to dunks, close shots and three-pointers, showing both his ability to set teammates up for high quality shots that fit the game plan and his competence in running the fast break.

As a creator of his own offense, his performance dipped compared to his hot streak on the Knicks — Jeremy’s points per possession in isolations went down from 1.02 to 0.68. However, one thing that stood out was his ability to draw fouls while in the act of shooting. He finished 12th among point guards in And1% (And1s/FGA), and 17th in free throw rate (FTA/FGA), putting him above the likes of Kyrie Irving in both categories.

Lin was effective defensively too, and is probably a bit underrated in that part of the game. While he seemed to struggle staying in front of some of the quicker guards, Lin still contributed 1.6 steals per game (11th best among PGs in the NBA), 0.35 blocks per game (also 11th best), and took 0.27 charges per game (12th best among PGs). When you combine the previous 3 stats into a jumbo defensive rating, Lin was the 9th best defensive PG in the NBA.

Jeremy Lin's Strengths and Weaknesses

Taking a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Jeremy Lin

Three-point shooting, turnovers, mental toughness have been concerns

Despite Morey’s faith in Lin, critics do have a point to make. While the Rockets’ biggest positional disadvantage last year was power forward, the point guard position wasn’t far behind. Compared to their opponents, the Rockets had a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) deficit of 2.1 every night at the point guard spot, scoring two less points, delivering one less assist and committing one more personal foul.

One thing that has rightly caused concern among Rockets fans is Lin’s shooting percentages. The Rockets’ uptempo offense is designed to create a lot of open three-point shots, especially from the wings; last year the team took 2,371 shots from beyond the arc and made 867, the second highest total in NBA history by a team in one season. Three-pointers will be even more key this year with Howard and Harden certain to attract their fair share of double teams, leading to open shots on the perimeter.

Last year Lin took 257 three-pointers – over 10% of the team’s shots from that distance – and made 87 of them, good for a 33.9% average. That level of efficiency puts Lin outside the top 100 best three-point shooters in the league and well below the better three-point shooting point guards in the NBA, such as Jose Calderon (46.1%), Steve Nash (43.8%), Mario Chalmers (40.9%), Jarrett Jack (40.4%), and Irving (39.1%).

There’s no disguising Lin’s shooting numbers, but glimmers of light do exist. Lin shot about 5% higher from three-point land at home than he did away. His numbers from downtown (39.3%) in the final 34 games of the regular season were much better than his early season efficiency. And lastly, his most effective shots came from spot-ups, exactly the shots he’ll see more of with Dwight on the floor. With more experience in the league’s different arenas, less defensive attention on him and lots of offseason practice, it is fair to expect him to convert his treys this season at a much higher clip.

Turnovers were also a concern. His assist-to-turnover rate was a Jrue Holiday-esque 2.13, putting him outside the top 30 PGs in the league. Adding to that was his turnover ratio (% of possessions that resulted in a turnover), which at 13.3% was the fourth highest in the league. Lin’s turnovers were caused more by bad passing (131) than by bad ball handling (89) and that number probably suffers a bit due to the fast pace the Rockets employ. With that said, Lin coughed up the ball as much in pick-and-roll situations (20.9% of these possessions led to a turnover) as he did in transition (21.1% of his transitions led to a turnover), suggesting a need for better decision making with the ball and playing more under control.

A final concern exists around Lin’s mental makeup. By his own admission, he struggled with this facet of his game last year. Describing the challenges he faced last season as a Rocket and his mentality moving forward, Lin said:

“I’m just going out there to play and not worry about anything: about proving myself to anybody, or proving my worth, or trying to live up to a contract, or whatever. I’m just going to go out there and play completely free of all the expectations and all the noise, the pressure. With the signing of Dwight and the emergence of James, there’s going to be a lot more spotlight, but for me it’s just a matter of going in everyday and doing my best. I’m just going to play the way that got me here.”

Will below average be good enough?

While there is no glaring hole in Lin’s game, he also doesn’t have an elite skill either. He’s an above average passer and defender that runs the pick-and-roll well, but he’s a below average shooter, ball handler and creator of his own offense. When you add it all up and stack him up against a league that’s full of quality point guards, you get a player whose PER output (14.9) is below average for his position (16.2) and puts him just outside the league’s top 30 playmakers. While the PER stat isn’t loved by all, other advanced stats tell a similar story: he didn’t make the top 15 of a recent WARP-based projection of the NBA’s top point guards and he ranks 27th among point guards in both Value Added and Estimated Wins Added. Championship-winning teams do not have to be elite at every position, but with only two All-Stars, the Rockets need to squeeze every drop of performance out of their point guard spot if they are serious about contention.

What could happen if Lin has a slow start

Lin is the clear starter, but if he returns to his past struggles from the three-point line, commits too many turnovers or fails to gel with Dwight, it could lead to him being replaced in the starting lineup in favor of Patrick Beverley, who played well last year as Lin’s backup. Though Beverley’s minutes constitute a smaller sample size (710 minutes), the Rockets as a team posted a 98.8 Defensive Rating when he was on the floor (compared to 104.0 with Lin), a ranking that would be good enough to be third best defense in the league. To add to that, there was almost no dip offensively (106.4 Offensive Rating with Lin on the floor, 106.1 with Beverley).

While it is not plan “A”, it is possible that the Rockets could be more dangerous with Lin on the bench than when he starts. In Asik and Lin, the Rockets could deploy two starting-quality players against other teams’ second string lineups, a configuration that would allow Lin to be a #1 offensive option. Lin has played well in that role in the past with the Knicks in 2011-2012 and in bursts last year, with his breakout 38-point night coming against the Spurs when Harden was out with an injury.

The Rockets won’t rush any decision. They understand the value of lineup stability and will want to collect a reasonable sample size of data to analyze both his and Beverley’s play before deciding that a change is needed. Suggestions in the recent ESPN Insider piece that Coach McHale might change his lineup based on training camp and preseason were probably a bit aggressive. The theory I have heard from an NBA source is that the Rockets will give the new Dwight-led lineup 20 games to gel before making a move of this magnitude.

Of course, coming off the bench was not what Lin had in mind when he signed his $25M contract last year, but with Howard and Harden now in the fold, the bar of expectations has been raised and the need for the right fit has increased. If he takes a step forward and proves to have addressed some of his weaknesses, he can cement his role as the starting point guard on a contending team.

Now we see if he’s ready for that new challenge, because for the scholarly Lin, the first 20 games of the 2013-2014 NBA season will be the biggest exam he has ever taken.


Carl Fudge is a second year MBA at MIT Sloan where he is the content lead for the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. He is a lifelong Rockets fan and has been posting on ClutchFans as GBRocket since 2003.

Houston Rockets

Heavy investment in Kevin Porter Jr raises serious questions about Rockets front office




Kevin Porter Jr. Rafael Stone

Soon-to-be-ex Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr was arrested last week for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, resulting in a fractured neck vertebra and a deep gash above her right eye after an attack at a hotel in New York. He allegedly woke her up by punching her repeatedly, strangled her and did not stop hitting her until she ran out of the hotel room screaming for help and covered in blood.

“This is a serious domestic violence case,” said assistant Manhattan district attorney Mirah Curzer.

First and foremost, I wish the victim healing. I don’t know what to say about the nightmare she went through. She and her family will forever be impacted. As for KPJ, if this is true, he doesn’t belong on the Rockets or in the NBA at all. He belongs in jail.

Secondly, this can’t be overlooked and just swept under the rug: Why did the Houston Rockets bank on and invest so heavily in this guy?

Kevin Porter Jr. being accused of crimes of this severity should not be shocking – at all. Before he even came to the Rockets, he had a long list of serious problems. He was suspended multiple times in high school. In 2019, he had a “conduct issue” significant enough that USC suspended the 5-star recruit indefinitely. He fell to the end of the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft because of his behavior liability. He was accused of punching a woman in the face in Cleveland. He also had a gun and marijuana charge later dismissed after getting into a car crash. He went into a tirade and got into a nasty confrontation with both the Cleveland coach and GM, resulting in the Cavs severing ties immediately and dumping him to the Rockets for nothing.

You could make the argument that initially giving Porter Jr. a second chance in Houston was praiseworthy, but the Rockets experienced KPJ’s anger management and immaturity issues firsthand on several occasions.

Former Rocket Austin Rivers said this week that this isn’t the first, second or even seventh issue with Porter Jr. and that Rockets “higher-ups” confided in him that they had no idea how to handle him.

“I remember talking to guys in the Houston Rockets organization, higher-ups, [and] they were having issues then,” said Rivers. “They were like, ‘We don’t know what to do with him.’ And that’s when he just got there from Cleveland!”

Porter Jr. was routinely a nightmare for Rockets coaches to deal with. On several occasions, he confronted and cussed out members of the coaching staff, saying they didn’t have the “credentials”, per source, a reference to the fact that him playing heavy minutes at point guard was a decision they did not control.

Once at a night out, Porter Jr. had a disagreement with a DJ over music choice and he snapped, smashing the DJ’s laptop to the floor. He needed to be restrained and removed. Rockets personnel and several of Porter’s teammates witnessed the incident.

Curzer also dropped a bombshell at the arraignment in saying that Porter Jr. has a history of abusing his girlfriend, who he had only been dating since early last year, his second season with the Rockets. Curzer specifically cited an incident in which KPJ allegedly rammed his car into hers.

There were dozens of maturity issues visible on the court to anyone paying attention. He refused to check out of games. He got into an argument on the bench with assistant Lionel Hollins. On numerous occasions, he would visibly shut down when he wasn’t passed the ball. I invite you to watch this video from a game against Memphis on March 20, 2022. Just listen to the Grizzlies broadcasters, particularly starting at the 1:40 mark, talk about what they are witnessing here:

Privately, people around the league would say they were baffled by the Rockets continued fascination with Porter Jr. Nobody could understand it.

That fascination starts with Rockets general manager Rafael Stone, who by every account over the last two years was the driving force behind the investment in Porter Jr. It has been no secret. Trading for him in January 2021 was seen by some with the team as his “Harden acquisition”, code for a signature move that makes an executive’s career, much in the way landing James Harden did for Daryl Morey in 2012.

For example, former Rockets head coach Stephen Silas never considered Porter Jr. to be a point guard, per sources — playing him there was a Stone mandate because the GM believed that is where his future lied.

John Wall also told us as much publicly when he explained the phone call he got from Silas about coming off the bench. He said Silas told him “This is what the GM wants,” adding again that Silas said, “Man, you don’t deserve that. You should be the starter. This is just what they want to do.” Wall was upset because he believed KPJ should have to earn the spot.

“I have a hard time finding anybody outside of the Rockets front office that believes that Kevin Porter Jr. is a starting point guard in the NBA,” said ESPN reporter Tim MacMahon in December.

There were plenty of warning signs about KPJ to the public too.

After Porter Jr. got into a heated argument in which KPJ “physically shoved” Rockets assistant coach John Lucas and quit on the team in the middle of a game against Denver in January of 2022, leaving the arena at halftime, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix famously wrote that the Rockets should “Cut Porter Jr. Waive him. Release him. Whatever. Eat what’s left of the $1.8 million he’s owed this season and the $3.2 million he’s got next and move on.” It became a source of mockery for Porter Jr’s fans, a line they would bring up after each game he hit a few threes or handed out some assists.

In February of this year, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, one of the most connected reporters in the league, flat out warned us that he was hearing awful things about the Rockets culture and locker room. He was blunt in what the Rockets needed to do — waive Kevin Porter Jr. outright and bring in a new coach and GM.

“Just cut him. That’s it,” said Givony of Porter Jr. “And you’re sending a signal to the league that we’re going to do things differently from here on out.”

“When you talk to people around the NBA about Houston, you just don’t hear good things about their culture, about that locker room. You talk to people that are on that team, and they are like, ‘We are a mess’,” said Givony. “Do people want to work with this organization? But you can change that fairly quickly if you come in, get rid of the bad apples and you change the coaching staff, and all of a sudden, you’re Houston. It’s the third-biggest city in America. There’s a history here of you actually being good.”

Porter came to the Rockets for “free” (in exchange for a top-55 protected second-round pick, which was designed not to convey), but he proved far from it as the Rockets continued to pour investment into him. Over the last 2-3 seasons, no Rockets player got more developmental capital than Porter Jr. – not Jalen Green, not Alperen Sengun, not Jabari Smith Jr. The Fertittas paid John Wall $85+ million over two years to sit at home so the team could groom Porter Jr. to be their future point guard.

Then they doubled down. With restricted free agency on the horizon and a seemingly non-existent market for KPJ’s services, the Rockets gave Porter Jr. an extension a year sooner – a contract that was presented as a four-year, $82.5 million deal. The deal was more team-friendly than that, putting team options in it after years 1 and 3. Going from the potential disaster that was initially reported to a deal they could escape after one season felt like a “win”, but the biggest question was why they wanted him long-term at all. The unprecedented nature of a contract that size with that kind of club control clearly showed the Rockets knew there was unique and significant risk here.

After KPJ signed the extension, The Athletic’s Kelly Iko summarized the Rockets view of Porter Jr. – “As has been [their] stance for months, the Rockets have maintained the notion that Porter is a priority and is considered a huge part of their core, along with Green and Jabari Smith Jr.”

The Rockets actions to kick off the 2022-23 season showed exactly that – that he was a priority. They benched Sengun to start the season, in large part to give KPJ a “lob threat” and defender in the starting lineup. They gave him the superstar “Harden Locker”. They introduced him last in the starting lineups. They treated him as the star and empowered him to be the self-proclaimed “Head Honcho” of Clutch City.

But the extension proved unwise and foolish. Porter Jr. never even made it to the first year of it. With over $80 million on the line, he snapped again. The Rockets signed him to one of the team-friendliest deals ever and still managed to both overcommit and overpay as Stone now scrambles to attach real assets to it to get another team to take it off his books.

Is it fair to question the judgment of the Rockets front office? Absolutely and without question. Whether you look at their ability to value character, evaluate risk, scout basketball, build culture, manage assets or allocate development resources, they failed at every level here. Why didn’t they act sooner? Why did they double down? Why didn’t they hold him accountable? Why did everybody in the league see it but them?

“We value the player and the person that [Kevin Porter Jr.] is becoming and are eager to invest in him and his journey,” said Stone after rewarding him with the extension less than a year ago.

The question you have to ask yourself now is, with all they knew and witnessed about Porter Jr. both on and off the court — why were they eager at all?

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Houston Rockets

Three predictions for an important Rockets offseason

The 2023 offseason is critical for the Houston Rockets and here’s what we think will happen




Houston Rockets Stephen Silas Alperen Sengun Kevin Porter Jr

We have almost arrived to the oasis.

For over two years, the “2023 Offseason” has been circled on the calendar as the turning point, the time when the Houston Rockets will switch gears and make winning a priority. With potentially $60 million in cap room and a top draft pick coming, this is the moment of truth that Rafael Stone and the Rockets front office pitched to the Fertittas when the rebuild began.

Does that mean the Rockets are going to magically start winning next season? Not necessarily. But it does mean we won’t see Daishen Nix run the point for 36 minutes in the name of player development. They want to win.

It’s very tough to know what will happen this offseason, given the unknown variables. The Rockets could land a top-two pick, which would bring them Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson, radically boosting their future. James Harden could opt to return, which also significantly boosts their near-term prospects.

But regardless of whether or not luck presents a “lifeboat” (Harden, Wemby, Scoot), here are some things I believe will happen.

Also, if you have been joining us in RocketsWatch all season, first of all, thank you! We greatly appreciate all the fan support this season. But if you’ve stuck around through a tough season, you know that none of this will come as a surprise. I have been talking about these predictions since January.

1. Rockets, Stephen Silas Will Part Ways

Stephen Silas is going to be let go this offseason.

The original plan was for Silas to coach this season and start the next, getting a shot once the Rockets were making winning their top priority. But the bar was low this season and he still fell short. There were several times where the team needed a stronger hand and it wasn’t there. The roster wasn’t built to win, but there is no argument to be made that coaching did anything to enhance the situation.

It’s important to point out that Silas got a raw deal, coming to Houston under different circumstances expecting to coach a veteran team. But this is the hand that was dealt and the Rockets have to play it. Silas may be a fine coach, but he’s not the right coach for this team and that’s all that matters at this stage.

Ownership was ready to move on by midseason, but a variety of factors have led to him finishing the year. But this is going to be it. They sorely need fresh eyes and a different voice.

Confidence Level: 100%

2. The Kevin Porter Jr. Starting Point Guard Experiment Will End

The Rockets got Kevin Porter Jr. for free from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2021, but he’s been anything but since.

Houston paid nearly $100 million to John Wall to stay at home so they could groom KPJ as their future point guard. They also signed Porter Jr to a team-friendly four-year deal despite the fact that a much more team-friendly restricted free agency was on deck.

Porter Jr. has gotten better and more comfortable at the lead guard spot in two-plus seasons, which could bode well for his future here, but it’s not near enough. He lacks ability to make advanced reads, which is one of the reasons the Rockets are dead last in corner three-point attempts. His tendency is to isolate, which is his strength, and that can create a lot of selfish basketball. In essence, the Rockets have been starting a pair of shooting guards.

The Rockets love them some KPJ, particularly Stone, so I’m not saying he’s done here. He could thrive in an alternate role, if he embraces it. But the Rockets want to make a leap next season, the first year they are on the hook to Oklahoma City for their first-round pick from the costly Russell Westbrook trade. You’re probably not going to make a bigger jump than by improving the on-court leader spot.

Confidence Level: 80%

3. Alperen Şengün Will Be Shopped

You either believe Alperen Sengun is the next Nikola Jokic or he’s a defensive liability that is too much trouble to build around. There doesn’t seem to be much in between.

Sengun is incredibly gifted offensively and is only 20 years old, so it’s very early. This is also the biggest offseason of his young career, where he won’t be preparing for EuroBasket and can specifically train for the NBA.

There is no evidence at all they are looking to trade him. I’m very much going rogue with this prediction. But consider:

   1. Internally he has been viewed as possibly the worst pick-and-roll defensive big in the league.
   2. They started Bruno Fernando over him to open the season.
   3. They rarely run the offense through him (“ŞenHub”).
   4. The Rockets are not well-positioned with future draft picks to trade and likely need to move a good young player if they’re looking at any significant deals.
   5. They believe bringing in a center is a high priority (though that could be as a backup to Sengun).

To be clear, I’m not predicting Sengun will be dumped but rather we will hear his name floated in rumors. A lot could change — a new coach could see Alpi as key to the future, for example — but right now, given all the factors listed above, I would be surprised if Sengun is the centerpiece of this rebuild. I think he’s more likely the trade piece.

Confidence Level: 60%

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Mike D’Antoni: The Rockets isolation offense wasn’t pretty, but it was effective




Mike D'Antoni Houston Rockets

Former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni made an appearance on the Thinking Basketball podcast to discuss his career, and he went into his stretch with the Houston Rockets (2016-2020).

One of the big topics discussed was the isolation sets that the Rockets ran often and why they did it.

“If that one-on-one was not efficient, we wouldn’t do it,” said D’Antoni. “But it was doing, if I’m not mistaken, 1.2-something (points per possession) ridiculous. 1.16, for a long time, was the standard of the best offense an NBA team had. We kind of blew that out of the water a little bit (at) 1.20, but our isolation game was like 1.25, 1.24, so it was like — why wouldn’t we isolate?”

The former Rockets coach admitted it was not the most pleasing offense to the eye.

“People don’t like it,” said D’Antoni. “Aesthetically it’s not good. I don’t love it. I would rather pass the ball around. And if I had a team that didn’t have James Harden, guess what? We’d be passing the ball around… It wasn’t pretty. People can complain. But when you have the most efficient offense in NBA history, or close to it, why wouldn’t you do it? Just because you want to look pretty?”

D’Antoni talked about how good the Rockets second units were in the 2017-18 season because of Chris Paul, citing how often the Rockets boosted their lead or turned a deficit into an advantage when they turned to the bench.

“Chris was just a maestro at running our offense, and doing it a little bit (Steve) Nash-like,” said D’Antoni. “Harden had to do it like Harden did it, but both of them were good. Both of them were perfect.”

D’Antoni said part of the reason for the iso sets was he wanted to maximize James Harden and make him “the best player he can possibly be.”

“James is one of the smartest players — and there are a bunch of them — that I ever coached,” said D’Antoni. “I thought probably two or three years there, he had a complete mastery of the game. He went over 50 I don’t know how many times in a row. We were banged up one night and I said, ‘James, you might have to get 50 tonight for us to even have a chance to win.’ He gets 60 and we win. Stuff like that. He was able to do stuff (that)… just a mastery of the game.”

On how close the Rockets were to winning a title, said D’Antoni, “I thought we had it, the third year until Chris went down. Maybe not. Who knows, because Golden State had hearts of champions. Those guys are hard to beat. But I thought we had a good chance at it, that’s for sure.”

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Houston Rockets

Why Alperen Sengun will come off the bench

With Bruno Fernando expected to start, here’s the plan for the Rockets second-year center




Alperen Sengun Houston Rockets

When the Rockets traded Christian Wood, it was crystal clear that Alperen Şengün was the new starting center for the Houston Rockets.

As we’re on the cusp of the Rockets 2022-23 season opener, there’s only one problem — he’s not.

Bruno Fernando is expected to get the starting nod at the five for the Rockets, leaving many to wonder why the second-year center out of Turkey is coming off the bench.

There are a couple reasons why.

First, the Rockets are trying to optimize their prospects, putting them each in the best position to succeed. In the case of Sengun, they want to leverage his passing skillset by making him an offensive hub. That’s difficult to do when you have ball-dominant guards in Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., who thrive out of isolation and are trying to make progress leading pick-and-rolls.

Fernando is a much more limited player, but he fits better right now with the starters because he screens/rolls hard and plays above the rim as an alleyoop threat — it’s been fairly apparent in the preseason how the guards use him. While not a great defender, Fernando also is more of a rim protector than Sengun.

Secondly, Sengun needs to adapt more to the NBA game. The Rockets very much believe in his prospects — he’s only 20 years old — and they still consider him the best five on the roster. But the NBA is a much different game than EuroBasket, which is where he spent more of his offseason focus. The days of just dumping the ball into a post player seem to be dwindling in the NBA. He’s got to get quicker, stronger, tougher — but most important of all, he’s got to shoot the ball better from range.

In a culture where coming off the “bench” is considered a demerit (it shouldn’t be), you have to explain the reasons why — but keep in mind, his minutes will still be significant. I expect he will likely get in the 24-26 range this year, an increase over the 20.7 he got last season. He’s still going to have plenty of opportunity to develop.

My two cents: I give the Rockets props for doing this so early. It’s been apparent to me that the Rockets have multiple players who would be considered secondary playmakers, and to maximize their skills, they need the ball in their hands (imagine if the Rockets drafted Paolo Banchero … grateful every day that Jabari fell to #3!). This hopefully allows for that. Playing Sengun off the bench gives you an opportunity to play a variety of ways and also covers up a current deficiency at backup point guard.

I don’t want to watch Sengun follow the guards around — I want to watch peak Sengun running offensive sets.

Overall, I like it — let’s get the season going.

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Houston Rockets

KJ Martin reportedly drawing interest on trade market

Rockets have had “ongoing talks” with Phoenix Suns about the third-year forward




KJ Martin Houston Rockets

According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, the Phoenix Suns have had “ongoing talks” about acquiring Rockets forward KJ Martin while Portland and Miami are “two other known teams with interest in Martin.”

There has been talk of trading KJ since before the summer when his father, former NBA All-Star Kenyon Martin, reportedly sought a trade for his son. With the Rockets holding multiple picks in the draft, it appeared the writing was on the wall for reduced minutes for KJ.

Martin has looked like a trusted member of Stephen Silas’ rotation so far in preseason. KJ has played in all three games, averaging 11.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in 26.0 minutes, hitting 5-11 from deep.

At the same time, Jabari Smith Jr. is the future, Jae’Sean Tate seems to be the coaching staff darling and Tari Eason has exploded onto the scene. Minutes for KJ could be available but they will be hard to come by.

If the Rockets are going to trade KJ, what should be the asking price? My feeling is a “good” second-round pick (one that could be expected to be in the 31-42 range) would be the goal. If the Rockets were offered a lottery-protected first-round pick, I think that would be a steal right now for Houston.

What could make more sense is if the Rockets combined KJ Martin with a player like Eric Gordon, especially given the goals of suitors like the Suns, Blazers and Heat.


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