Tarik Black is full of possibilities.
When Tarik was brought on the team for the Summer League after going undrafted out of KU, he was given just such a possibility. His will and determination overcame the factors that made every team (Houston included) pass him up in the draft.
Early on in the 2014-2015 NBA season, the decision to retain Tarik Black over Jeff Adrien had been the biggest roster move Houston made all preseason. Maybe more surprisingly, Tarik has gotten some meaningful minutes off the bench in the regular season so far. Normally, Houston opts to send its guys right to the D-League to have them cut their teeth with a higher usage rate in the Houston system with the Vipers.
Back in the Summer League when Black started to make a name for himself, Chris Stone of AintNoSeats.com and RushTheCourt.net asked me if we were planning on doing coverage of Tarik Black as the undrafted rookie started to make some noise. At the time, we were not doing much in-depth coverage of the Summer League and most did not anticipate Tarik Black outplaying both Jeff Adrien and Joey Dorsey to make the final roster cut.
Houston's decision made a lot of sense even if Tarik played slightly worse than he did. The Rockets were already pot committed to Joey Dorsey's guaranteed contract and letting Adrien go made more financial sense given Black's performance and upside relative to Jeff at this stage in his career.
Additionally, in my email exchange with Chris, he noted that Tarik was a "good offensive rebounder, fouls a lot, and does a decent job at times in the pick and roll on offense," which is a description that should resonate with fans of the Rockets given their penchant for drafting undersized, yet strong power forwards with high motors. Wingspans are usually a big factor as well.
Tarik hits all of the high points.
In his workout with the Clippers before the draft, Tarik measured 6' 7.5" without shoes but sported an impressive 7' 2.5" wingspan and an 8' 11" standing reach. Scouting reports on the guy routinely validate his rebounding prowess and his strength.
Since we missed Tarik during our player preview series, I consulted the TDS hive mind to get some of our other writer's opinions on the young fella. I must say though, extracting these gems was tough work amid the barrage of random tangents in our email chain, ranging from how much we all wanted the Heat to fail all the way to navigating race relations in America.
Office Space references were involved -- it was a whole thing.
Either way, feast upon the fruits of our bumbling linguistic labor:
Tarik Black: the guy most likely to commit more fouls than field goals made. Right now he's made two shots and committed seven fouls. The best thing about him is that we can call him Coffee Black. He's a poor man's Kendrick Perkins, and Perkins is already on NBA welfare.
- Mike de Moor
Despite all of the great things that have made Tarik the closest thing to an internal Cinderella story since Chuck Hayes was on the roster, his per game totals and per 36 numbers so far this season leave a lot be desired, to put it lightly:
According to Draft Express (via Synergy), Tarik shot 75 percent in finishing situations and 61 percent in the post against non-NBA competition. This gives you some hope that his offensive numbers can turn around once he gets acclimated to the league, but right now it looks pretty rough for the former Jayhawk.
An undersized backup center for when your other undersized backup centers signed to multi-year deals still aren't good enough. Adequately sized backup centers need not apply.
- Ethan Rothstein
Despite Tarik's clear power forward credentials, the intersection of his skill set and our frontcourt has landed him in the role of Dwight's backup so far this year. Motiejunas can't guard a center for very long without fouling out of games even when he gets out of McHale's dog house. To a team that started the 6'6" Chuck Wagon for so long at the five spot, having a guy who is 6'8" at the center position doesn't really phase Rockets fans nearly as much.
If Tarik Black keeps taking his minutes, Dorsey is gonna roofie him.
- David Clark
Joey Dorsey has certainly been a dud of a pickup in terms of on the court production both in the preseason and regular season. Black also easily fills Joey's role as the Houston's undersized posterizer.
Why does everyone have to hate on Tarik? He's a rookie. I still don't know why we didn't keep Adrien though, he does at least have a hot streak on his career record.
A dose of perspective here.
It is easy to criticize a rookie who just got finished taking undergraduate classes (and going undrafted) for failing to produce first minutes in the NBA. Blame Motiejunas for not stepping it up enough to lock down the backup spot, blame Dorsey for Dorsey-ing, blame it on the front office for not keeping a veteran like Adrien, but don't blame it on the rookie for not playing up to par in a role that's bigger than he is as an NBA player at this point. We were spoiled with Asik and Howard last season.
While Tarik is currently on the struggle bus in terms of production, he has a solid set of fundamental tools to work with to come into his own.
Tarik's playing style and demeanor does a good job of making the underdog label stick and maybe for that reason alone I will be rooting for him. Black's ability to competently rotate in an NBA defense and ability to finish at the rim will be crucial determinant of his value to the Rockets moving forward.
Maybe Tarik ends up being just another 6-foot whatever power forward that simply can't put it together in enough dimensions of the game to retain the value necessary for a roster spot, but for now he's got opportunities in an organization full of some of the best big men in the game to learn from.
Maybe he's just Houston's stop-gap until they feel like Clint Capela is developed enough to slip into the back-up role. Maybe Tarik will develop into what we hoped Thomas Robinson was going to pan out to be.
These are all possibilities.
One thing is certain, however, according to BD34:
If Black's production scales or becomes nominally competent on the rebounds, Morey will have to tell Motiejunas "Once we went Black, we couldn't go back."
- Brandon Davis