The Houston Rockets are dead last in the NBA in bench scoring at just 22.6 points per game. Of course, they still have a move to make that could dramatically improve the bench, but their current problem stems from their inability to sink three pointers.
Simply put, shooters aren't making their shots. Three-point specialists Troy Daniels and Francisco Garcia are both shooting below 30 percent from behind the arc.
However, one of the lone pleasant surprises has been Jason Terry. Terry is playing 21.9 minutes per game, which is up five minutes from last year. While scoring 7.3 points per game, he's shooting a solid 42 percent from three-point land and is super reliable at the line; he is 90 percent from the stripe this year and 85 percent in his career.
While Terry has played well for the Rockets, JET is historically a streaky shooter and it's unlikely he'll be able to sustain the three-point numbers; he has just a 38 percent career three-point field goal mark. Also, Terry is 37 years old and played just 35 games last year due to a lingering knee injury.
It's only a matter of time before Terry's minutes are cut down and he fades out of the rotation. Despite his recent production, JET is the past and Canaanball is the future.
Isaiah Canaan, the young point guard from Murray State, is Terry's natural successor. At this point, Canaan simply has a higher ceiling game-to-game, because he can get hot and contribute in many ways. His "big-game" potential is evidenced by his 24-point performance against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, in which he was 6-10 on three-pointers.
Canaan and Terry have only played 10 minutes on the floor together this season, so it's likely Terry's role will diminish once Canaanball emerges. Canaan is truly the future of the second-unit in Houston because he can sink catch-and-shoot three pointers, execute in transition, and he gels with the stars better than Terry.
For a generally talent-inferior bench, the Rockets reserves rely on pushing the pace to score points. Canaan is much better at orchestrating a fast break than Jason Terry. Although their pace numbers are identical, Canaan is a quicker player and a better passer than JET, making him a better full-court player. Plus, Canaan is a much better defensive player, and he can turn his steals into points in transition.
In the half court, Canaanball adds a different dimension to the Rockets: spot-up shooting off the catch. 41 percent of Canaan's shots this year have been catch-and-shoot three pointers. In that situation, he is shooting 39 percent. Canaan can curl off screens to the wing and to the corner for catch & shoot three pointers.
Furthermore, the Houston Rockets' optimal lineup this year is led by Isaiah Canaan at point guard -- not Jason Terry or Patrick Beverley. That five-man combination consists of Canaan, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Donatas Motiejunas (Yes, really!), and Dwight Howard. As a unit, they have played 54 minutes and have outscored the opposition by over 21 points, according to NBA.com. That's not necessarily a testament to Canaan's individual skills, more so his range of skills that mesh well with the players around him.
Even with the advanced metrics leaning Canaan's way, the basic statistics surprisingly display even more of a staggering difference between Canaan and Jason Terry.
Although the Rockets' bench has been extremely underwhelming, Isaiah Canaan, the promising, young point guard, is proving to be the future of the second unit.