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TDS Player Preview: Isaiah Canaan, the Spark Plug

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With Jeremy Lin gone and no clear backup to Patrick Beverley, Isaiah Canaan is in prime position to take over the backup point guard role for the Rockets, but can he bring the spark that the Rockets are looking for?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Player: Isaiah Canaan

Age: 23

Position: Point Guard

Height: 6'0"

Acquired: 34th pick of 2013 Draft

Contract Situation: Signed three-year rookie contract in 2013

Fun Fact that might not be true: He used to date one of my good friend's sisters

The Rockets' point guard position coming into this season is very weak. After losing Jeremy Lin to a trade to the Lakers that leaves Patrick Beverley as the only proven commodity in the point guard rotation. This leaves a gaping hole at the backup point guard position which is being courted by Canaan, Nick Johnson, Ishmael Smith, and Jason Terry. Despite the high number of suitors, there's never been a better time for Isaiah to come in and take the backup point guard role for himself. After a great showing in the Summer League where he proved not only that he can score in bunches, but get it done in the 4th quarter as the star, he's coming into the season with a lot of hype and high expectations. Let's look at what makes him the best guy for the job.

Shooting/Offensive Fit

Canaan spent a large chunk of last season in the D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers where he put on a show. He averaged 21.8 points, shot 36.9% from behind the arc, and connected on 3.2 of his 8.7 three-pointers a game. He adds floor spacing that none of the other point guards can give us. The 3 point shot is his bread and butter as well as being able to break down defenses. We see this in his 22 games with the Rockets where 55 of his 87 total shots came from deep.

What makes Canaan's shooting special is that he can shoot from almost any situation whether it be off the dribble, pick and roll, catch and shoot, or spot ups. He's an exceptional shooter with the ball in his hands, during his stint with RGV, 65% of his 3s were unassisted. This gives the Rockets a player that they can trust to make plays for himself when playmakers such as Harden, Ariza, and Howard are off the court. Also at Murray State he was able to knock down a high clip of catch and shoot shots which bodes well for when he's in the game with Harden. However, what truly separates Canaan's shooting from the pack is his ability to do it in big time situations. In both the Summer League Playoffs and in the D-League playoffs, he's taken over as the star of his team. In the Summer League he made 3 pointer after 3 pointer pushing the Rockets all the way to the Finals and in the D-League playoffs he averaged 34.5 points on 43.6% from deep.

Driving Ability

Despite his heigh issues, Isaiah has shown to be creative in attacking the basket. His ability to use both creative dribbles and change of speeds along with solid fundamentals such as staying low and using his big body to protect the ball, he's able to get to the basket at a high frequency. He's very good at drawing contact, with RGV he averaged 6.2 free throw attempts per-36 and converted them at an 81.1% rate. He also pairs his driving with his 41" max vert, so he's able to get up by the basket on his drives.

Despite all that, due to his small stature and sometimes out of control play, he was only able to convert 45.5% of his layups last year with the RGV. This doesn't bode well for his adjustment to the NBA where the big men are bigger as well as fundamentally sound and don't foul as often as D-league big men. If Isaiah wants to be the spark plug the Rockets need off their bench it will come down to his ability to drive the lane, score, or open up the defense with his passing.

Passing

This is the part of Canaan's game that needs the most work. He's able to find the easy open-man if he's given a good lane to find him, but as should any point guard. Canaan struggles passing in tough situations where the pressure is on him. Watching the preseason games as well as his RGV games, Canaan would try tricky in the air passes that didn't end well a lot of the time, similar to when Jeremy Lin would drive the lane and jump to make a pass. As well, Canaan struggles against being double teamed. With his stature it's hard for him to see over the defenders and make the necessary pass to the next guy.

Overall

I'm probably the highest person on Canaan out of all the writers. There's something intangible about him that makes me think that he could possibly be the starter of this team in the future. He exuberates confidence, he has an endless range, and he's always trying to attack. This season though, he needs time to adjust to the speed of the NBA and work on the areas of his game where he struggles. If he's able to make the necessary steps in improving his game, the Rockets will have a solid backup point guard they can trust going into the playoffs.