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And Here We Go...

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A couple of thoughts from the Rockets first summer league performance...

First and foremost, most Houston fans who tuned in did so to see the 14th overall pick Patrick Patterson. The Rockets hadn't had this high of a draft pick in four years, since they drafted (and later traded) Rudy Gay with the eighth pick in the 2006 Draft. Patterson didn't disappoint. It wasn't the 18 points or eight of nine shooting performance that really impressed me, but his range. Just like Mike, coming into the game I didn't realize the deep range he has as a shooter. Last year with Kentucky, he shot 34.8 percent from beyond the arc. He was two for two yesterday. This bodes great for coach Rick Adelman's system, which thrives having big men who can hit three's (i.e. Brad Miller).  Another thing I love about this kid is his work ethic. After an amazing first performance, all he had to say after the game was how he needs to improve tremendously on defense.  Again, you see Morey drafting individuals with great character.

Last season, when Kevin Martin got hurt, I wrote:

I'm Bringing SexyBack

While the JT that that song certainly has girls swooning over his dance moves, the Rockets own JT is mesmerizing fans with some moves of his own.
Rookie Jermaine Taylor is making a splash with his latest string of starts while Kevin Martin sits out with a shoulder strain. A couple of things stand out while watching him play:

1) Physicality. Taylor is an extremely physical player, both on the offensive and defensive end. He uses all 6'4'' of his frame to attack the basket almost at will. In the Youtube clip embedded in this post, a majority of his points come from layups/dunks. He uses quickness in his game, and it seems he can get to the bucket whenever he wants. The only other Rocket I have seen attack the bucket that much in the last couple of years was Von Wafer. There is still a lot of room for improvement on the defensive end, but his physical mentality is in the right area.
2) Competition. Taylor is facing stiff competition in the first couple of starts of his career. He was tasked with guarding Kobe Bryant in his first NBA start and did a solid job. Even though Kobe almost recorded a triple double, Taylor played Bryant very physically and held him to a mere 17 points. That is 10 points less than his season average. Granted, Kobe dished out nine assists

You can find the rest of the article at Heart of Champion.  Taylor certainly has the offensive firepower/capability to take over a game. While he is lacking on defense, he can get to the rim whenever he wants too. Last summer league, Taylor averaged 11 points in 20 minutes of playing time. A big difference I see in his game from last year to now is shot selection. To put it simply, he is taking less contested shots. JT went off for two game-highs: 25 points and seven boards last night. Before Rockets fans get too excited, I personally don't think he is going to pan out. He is not consistent and very turnover prone, two characteristics that you don't need at the pro level. He shows signs of brilliance, but will lay a goose egg his very next game. I am curious to see how he comes out and performs tonight against Dallas. If he does start playing on a more consistent basis, his impact could be huge considering the only SG in front of him is Kevin Martin. To have another prolific scorer come off the bench and ignite his fellow teammates and crowd (Von Wafer) would be huge.

One of my big questions going into this off-season was: how is the dynamic duo from the University of Arizona going to progress in their development entering their second year in the league. Jordan Hill shook of first-half jitters to have a very solid performance. Not having near the range Patterson does, he found his rhythm scoring down low. Hill went seven for 10, finishing with 16 points and five rebounds. He did have a rocky first half though, and if he is going to be the role player coaches and staff expects him to be, more consistency needs to be shown from him. The disconcerting thing about Hill's play was his lack of intensity on the glass. For him to step in and fill the gap the Rockets have at back-up center, Jordan needs to really step up in that area of his game and I don't see any improvement thus far. Chase Budinger has a very developed offensive game. He proved that as a rookie, but where he is lacking as a player is on the defensive side of the ball. He stepped up last night holding his opponents to under 50 percent shooting while recording two steals. "Air Bud" also distributed the ball nicely, making a couple of ‘how did he do that' assists. He added 10 points but missed all three attempts he had from behind the arc.

As a team, the Rockets shot mediocre. They shot 52.7 percent from the field, but as Mike pointed out in his article, a majority of their points came from inside the paint (54 points). Houston's offense flourishes when hitting the three point shot, yet they shot only thirty percent from downtown yesterday. These numbers need to improve from some of the young players who are going to make a run to get on the final roster. Overall, the offense was consistent scoring 20+ in every quarter. Aside from individual performances, two things to look for in the next match against Dallas tonight are rebounds (Houston was outrebounded 15-12) and three point shooting.