Rick Adelman has always run a skin-tight eight to nine man rotation. Meaning that if you aren't one of those eight or nine players, you'll be seeing nothing but garbage and scrap time. Back in September, I had Jermaine Taylor cracking that rotation ahead of fellow rookie Chase Budinger.
Oh, how the tables have turned.
Not only has Budinger cracked the rotation, but he has become a sharpshooting assassin and an integral part of the offense in just his first seven professional games. Remember, this is the same kid that 32 teams passed over once, and 11 passed over twice. Think anyone might be regretting that decision?
Meanwhile, Taylor, who appeared to have all the tools necessary to find playing time immediately, has been riding the pine. Nothing about Taylor has changed from day one. He's completely healthy. He hasn't been sent to the doghouse. As far as I'm aware, Taylor really hasn't done anything wrong.
However, the circumstances surrounding the Rockets have changed. Once a team thought to be searching for offense, Houston has had no trouble in putting the ball in the basket. While this is a good thing for the Rockets, it doesn't help Taylor's cause for playing time.
Jermaine is of the Tracy McGrady mold. He's a pure scorer, someone who can fend for himself easily, but perhaps too often and too exclusively. Conventional wisdom says that Houston needs a guard who can isolate and carry a team. But there's two problems with this statement pertaining to Taylor:
1. He's no Tracy McGrady. Of the same mold, yes. But of the same caliber? Not even close.
2. If the first seven games are any indicator, the Rockets don't need a pure scorer to isolate and find offense for himself.
Thus far, the "system" offense has worked, that being the brand of offense that basically says, "If you're open, take a good shot. If not, move the ball until you find someone who is. And for God's sake, try not to do too much, because that will defeat the entire purpose."
Consider the Rockets as a puzzle. Who fits better, according to the above statement? Exactly. Chase Budinger.
For the purpose of checking up on predictions, as opposed to gloating, here's what I wrote about Budinger before the season began:
What to expect in 2009-10: Plenty of jump shots. Chase is a perfect "system" player. He's big, athletic, and can shoot the ball well. If you send him through screens and get him open, he'll knock down the jumper. But Bud Light isn't quite as good on the isolation, as he has a tendency to be a bit soft on the drive. Luckily, Budinger won't be asked to do such things. He'll be fighting to see any minutes, but he picked the right year to be a Rocket - any scoring will be welcome. If he can find a niche on the team, he'll play.
It was a pretty bland statement, I suppose, but it's ringing true isn't it? Budinger has found his niche, as a shooter and as a source of offense on back-cuts and on the break. He isn't being asked to dominate the ball. It's been a perfect fit, as he is averaging 10 points per game and is shooting 42 percent from deep. It hurts to say this, but he's making my boy Steve Novak look like s--t.
Don't forget to give some credit to Adelman for Budinger's immediate successes. He's the one who told Chase something along the lines of, "If you have any room at all, shoot. If you don't shoot, you're going to be benched." Nothing fuels a shooter more than a green light with a penalty if it's not taken advantage of.
For now, it is Bud Light who has been the rookie standout. Taylor will continue to wait, especially with McGrady's impending return. Perhaps at some point, he too will find a unique purpose on the roster. In Houston, there's always an injury waiting to happen.