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Scouting The Rockets During The First Three Days Of The NBA Summer League

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Some thoughts on each player that I observed in three games of Rockets Summer League actions (with accompanying "grades" - take those with a grain of salt).

Patrick Patterson -- A-

Patrick Patterson is far more athletic than I ever thought him to be. He can guard the perimeter and run the floor like a small forward. He also showed off his outside shot quite a bit in his first three games, perhaps a bit too much. As Daryl Morey noted in his in-game discussion with NBA TV's Matt Winer and Brent Barry, the Rockets would like to see Patterson emphasize his inside game rather than hover outside. However, if Patterson happens to be on the elbow, he runs a terrific pick and roll, something that Rick Adelman will surely take note of.

Patterson showed a very polished set of tools in the post. He has great hands, phenomenal footwork for a rookie (his up and under move in the first game made me get out of my deskchair) and possesses quick, decisive post moves. He also showed that he can defend one-on-one in the post. His help defense leaves a little to be desired and he hasn't exactly mastered the art of taking a charge yet, but these things will only improve with time.

The main thing that separates Patterson from Jordan Hill thus far, among other things, is his attacking mentality around the rim and on the block. Upon receiving the ball in the post, Patterson would take one power dribble, set his feet and go right at his defender with a quality jump hook. He also elevates immediately once he catches a pass under the basket. On the other hand, Hill kept fading away with his post moves and hesitated many times upon catching a pass. As a result, my fingernails are now a shell of what they once were.

I like nearly everything that I have seen from Patterson thus far. He may have declined slightly in his last two games, but he continued to show flashes of intelligence and athleticism. This is one of those times that being called a "jack of all trades but master of none" is ideal - he can already do a whole bunch of things and has plenty of time to improve. Big fan of Patty Cakes (too soon?).

Jermaine Taylor -- A

Jermaine Taylor at times continues takes one dribble too many, but it didn't hold him back in his first three Vegas contests. He blew by defenders as if they were trees. His jump shot and outside shot look much improved and his defense looked better as well. Taylor appeared to be a capable passer in last year's Summer League, or at least he was willing to be. This go-around, he has caught a severe case of tunnel vision, though I can't fault him for looking to score whenever possible. Perhaps he could dish the ball off here and there, but for the most part, Taylor has looked very impressive. He'll be on the game day roster many-a-time this season, but with a deep roster, he may not find room to stay permanently. Either way, he looks to be a "lightening scorer" off the bench much in the way that Von Wafer was two years ago.

Chase Budinger -- B+

If there's one player on the Rockets' Summer League roster who has the least to worry about, it's Chase Budinger. Yet, that hasn't stopped Budinger from being aggressive and attacking the rim. His decision making has been shaky at times, but this is the rare time that we'll see Budinger act as the point guard on more than one occasion. His overall ability is about the same as where it was at the end of last season, but his confidence level looks to be quite healthy and his jumpshot hasn't gotten any worse. So that's nice.

Jordan Hill -- C+

I'm concerned. Not because I think Hill is on his way to becoming a failure or anything like that, but because he has yet to get over his tendency to hesitate around the rim. He ducks underneath defenders far too often and tries to pump fake unnecessarily. Although he is limited by his average leaping ability, Hill needs to be able to go up to the rim with some explosiveness. He also needs to quit spinning or fading away from the basket with his moves, as he continues to settle for fadeaway hook shots. On ocassion, Hill will take a power dribble, step into his defender and create nice separation, but he needs to be able to do this more often and with more precision. Surprisingly, he does have plenty of polish and coordination with his hands (his rebounding has been fantastic, as usual), but he doesn't appear to have much coordination when it comes to making a direct post move.

So far, Hill has also failed to provide much help on the defensive end, constantly allowing guards to get around him en route to a layup. He's not the shot blocker that many here perceive him to be. His athleticism is unquestioned but his ability to properly time his jump to block a shot isn't all that impressive. This was the perfect time for Hill to come out and show that he can do more than just rebound and run the floor. At this point, though, he's looked more raw than he did during his appearances last season in real games.

Hill certainly has plenty of time to work on these things, but we all thought that he would be a little further by now if the particular faults in his game are to be improved upon. Also, it would be nice if he could set better screens. He left Budinger out to dry during the second game on a dribble drive.

From here on out, I'll just randomly list some thoughts that I have for each player.

Ish Smith -- B-

Good fluidity on offense, good vision, doesn't try to do too much, manages the game well. Doesn't posses a great outside shot, appears to have fallen in love with an average floater, has gotten beat on defense constantly, needs to work on his passes on the drive and on his overall defensive game in general.

Maarty Leunen --B+

Very aware. Willing passer, good outside shot, seems to be in the right place at the right time. I'd love to have him on the team if he was an imposing defender. Sadly, he seems destined for Europe once again. Great player.

Blake Ahearn -- C

Just don't see it with Ahearn. Obviously can shoot it. Not a great manager with the ball, tends to end up on the baseline too much and leaves himself with little options. Subpar defender, doesn't do a whole lot in the lane or on the drive. He hasn't played to the level that Smith has.

Alexander Johnson -- B+

Gets to the free throw line. Smart, energetic player - knows how to draw fouls. Can run the floor and finish inside, good hands. Good, not great defender with good footwork. He's an NBA player, but perhaps not with the Rockets.

Gary Forbes -- C

Hasn't done much of anything. Slow first step, not too athletic. Then again, he's very comfortable on the drive and is able to corrall himself in order to put up a basket. I'd like to see more from him in these last two games.

Dwight Lewis -- B-

He's there to score, nothing else. Good finisher around the rim, very athletic, decent outside shot.

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As for everyone else, they must not have caught my eye. I'm not about to make up thoughts about a player that I didn't particularly notice.