With Jason Terry's play slowly deteriorating, as evidenced by the month of January*, it seems like Kevin McHale has a built in Plan B in Isaiah Canaan.
*Terry averaged just 6.7 points in nearly 19 minutes per game in the month of January. He also averaged 1.2 turnovers per game in the first month of 2015.
Fully recovered from his ankle injury, Isaiah Canaan has been recalled to the Rockets. Canaan shined in the 9 games he started while Patrick Beverley was out. His defining moment was his 24-point outburst against the Kings. Now, with Patrick Beverley struggling, will Canaan be given another opportunity to impress?
In the half court, Canaan's court vision is still developing, but he already has a scorer's mentality. He's great on pull-up shots, a unique ability that no one on the Rockets (besides Harden) possesses. One third of Canaan's shots are pull-up J's and he's making half of them.
Canaan's on-ball defense isn't quite like Beverley's, but he can ignite fast breaks by playing the passing lanes. In the nine games Canaan started, he averaged roughly 1.2 steals per game in nearly 30 minutes per game. Canaan's defensive rating (96) is slightly better than JET's (98.1), but that could be from playing many of his minutes with Harden and Trevor Ariza.
As a starter, Canaan's plus-minus is +10.5, but it's -23.7 when he comes off the bench. Canaan isn't set to take Beverley's job quite yet, but he can have a positive effect on the Rockets if he's given the chance. In fact, Canaan's highest plus/minus is when he plays 20-29 minutes per game, basically what Terry is playing now.
Terry, on the other hand, makes up for his lack of quickness with the ability to shoot threes off the catch. He's shooting 41 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers compared to Canaan's 38 percent. Despite his advanced age, Terry can still come off pin downs and curl off screens for open threes. However, the Rockets desperately need a player who can create, not another spot-up shooter.
I understand the idea of Jason Terry, a savvy veteran who can come in and make the big shots, but I don't understand the point of playing him over 20 minutes per game at point guard, which isn't even his true position. Terry has had an amazing career, but it's obvious that his signature moments are in the past.
Neither player is an instinctive, stereotypical point guard who can set up teammates, but Canaan is more likely to develop into something that resembles an natural point guard.
While I believe Canaan deserves to backup Bev at point guard, I think Terry should still have a role on this team. Every team needs that veteran guy who can make the big shot. JET is that guy, he just doesn't need to bring the ball up the court to be that guy.
It's difficult to compare the two statistically because of Canaan's small sample size, but the "Per 36" stats accurately paint a picture. Canaan is either comparable or better than Terry in almost every major statistical category.
One of Canaan's flaws is his height. Listed at a generous 6'0, he seems to always get blocked when attacking the rim. With that said, Canaan's field goal percentage within 10 feet of the hoop is roughly the same as Terry's, while Canaan gets to the rack much more than JET. Even though Canaan won't grow, the more he plays, the easier finishing at the rim be for him. He'll learn when to use floaters and when to kick out to shooters or dish to a big appropriately. The more Canaan plays, the more his decision-making will improve.
While it not only makes sense right now to give Canaan more minutes at point guard than Terry, it can only help the team in the long run if Canaan's playing time increases. I don't understand what you could gain by letting 37-year-old Jason Terry play 18 minutes per game while Canaan, 23, unjustifiably sits on the bench. How could that affect Canaan's confidence? Why won't McHale just give him a chance?
Another problem Canaan had in his short stint in the NBA is taking care of the ball, but the only way for Canaan to improve on that is to let him touch the ball and play NBA minutes. Keep this dude out of the D-League and let him get some real experience.
It all comes down to this: who should be the backup point guard? All of what you just read is simply evidence. I think I made my case very clear. Although Terry, a former Sixth Man of the Year, would absolutely have been the answer in the past, the solution in the present and for the future is clearly Isaiah Canaan, and it's a no-brainer.