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What we learned from the Summer Rockets

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The Rockets left Vegas after a job well done.

USC v Baylor Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Rockets have never been the flashiest team in Summer League considering they usually don’t have high draft picks, or sometimes any at all. But this year was different. This year, with several open roster spots, two high-upside draft picks and a couple NBA vets, this year’s version of the Summer Rockets was one of the most intriguing in recent memory.

Over the span of five days, the Rockets went an impressive 3-0 in pool play, winning their first three contests over the Pacers, Warriors and Clippers. Their undefeated record earned them the five seed out of all 30 teams and a matchup with the Nets in the first round of tournament play.

The Rockets were able to slide past the Nets, but were unable to conquer Collin Sexton and the Cavaliers. The win-loss record ultimately means squat, but being competitive should count for something, even if it is meaningless Summer League games. The most impressive win in Summer League came in their second game against the Warriors where they overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat the Summer Warriors.

Majority of the lineup that clawed back during that game were players that played in Rio Grande Valley with the Vipers last season, and it was their chance to shine. However, everyone gave us a small tidbit of what we can expect from them in the future.

People We Probably Won’t See Again

Roger Moute a Bidias

Moute a Bidias played just two minutes for the team during Summer League, both of which took place in the team’s final game against Cleveland. He is the younger brother of Luc Mbah a Moute, and now Roger will probably share the title of his brother of ex-Rocket.

Rob Gray

Former Houston Cougar favorite Rob Gray dealt with injuries throughout his time in Summer League, only appearing in two of the five contests. He showed some promise as a potential G-League/overseas player, but I don’t think he showed enough for the Rockets to want to make a further investment on.

Markel Brown

As a former NBA-er and G-League veteran, I expected more from Brown. After he burst out of the gate with eight quick points in the first game, he disappeared. His shots would not fall in Summer League, and at 26, his time is running out to become an NBA mainstay. Perhaps another team will give him a look, but given that the Rockets gave him a two-way last season, I doubt it will go to him this season.

R.J. Hunter

Hunter turns 25 at the end of October, and like his two-way counterpart Markel Brown, time is running out for him. He has the shooting for the NBA but I feel like the Rockets have better, younger options at this point in time. Hunter will likely see the G-League or NBA next season, but I reckon it is with a team not affiliated with or named the Houston Rockets.

Chinanu Onuaku

A Rockets draft pick entering his third year, this was an important Summer League for Onuaku, and he did not deliver. I think he can be a great player overseas and he needs to develop more big man tendencies if he wants to find a future in the NBA. The Summer League stage was too big for him and he was outshined by Houston’s bigs and other teams’ bigs. He just is not the dominant big man the team drafted in 2016 and he is not the heir apparent at the center position for this team. After two seasons, this Summer League proved that it is time to move on from Onuaku.

Next Year’s Vipers

These guys may not all end up on the Vipers, but all of these guys will likely play in the G-League next season, either on a two-way contract or someone trying to earn a two-way contract.

Gary Clark

Clark was injured and did not see action in Las Vegas, but he signed a two-way deal with the Rockets right after the Draft. Hopefully he will be healthy in time for training camp and we can see more of what he brings to the table then.

Deng Adel

Adel started off slow in the first two games but picked it up against the Clippers when he saw extended playing time. He proved why he fit the Rockets’ system and it is unsure whether or not the Rockets will be able to retain him and play him in the Valley, but if the Rockets are granted the opportunity, they won’t hesitate to bring him back.

The former Louisville Cardinal ended up starting the final Summer League game and finished the game with the most minutes, so they are definitely intrigued by what he can bring to the table. The Rockets could certainly groom him into the stretch-four defender they want if Vince Edwards fails to work out.

Trevon Duval

Duval falls into the same category as Adel of guys the Rockets hope they can keep but might not be able to. Duval started out of the gate strong with a 20-point performance against the Pacers but fell off after that. He was the team’s second-best point guard behind De’Anthony Melton, which likely puts him on the outside looking in. Lesser teams could pounce at the opportunity of grabbing a guy with as much upside as Duval, which makes it a very good possibility that he will be an ex-Rocket. However, if he isn’t picked up by another team, he has done enough for the Rockets to want an extended look at the former Duke point guard.

Vincent Edwards

Edwards’ Summer League highlight came when he scored 20 points on 8-12 shooting against the Clippers, proving that there is some potential with the 52nd overall pick. However, outside of that game, Edwards did not have a good run in Vegas. His shots would not fall, which was surprising to see from a 40 percent three-point shooter in college.

I think he is the likeliest candidate for the second two-way contract and he will be able to get a substantial amount of minutes as the Vipers’ top stretch-four, which will allow him to develop his skills and groom him into the three-and-D that Trevor Ariza was for several years with this team.

Next Year’s Rockets

The Rockets currently have ten players on the team. With the likely signing of Capela and another free agent that may or may not be named Carmelo Anthony, the roster will be bumped to 12. However, if Onuaku is cut, then four roster spots will be open to Summer League players, and the following are who I believe will get those spots.

Zhou Qi

This was a no-brainer. Zhou is already on the roster and he showed significant progress throughout this Summer League. The shot blocking was great, and his ability to get to the free throw line was solid, but the added part to his game that really impressed me was his no-hesitation three-point shot.

Very rarely have we seen a shot-blocking, three-point guy in the league, and the Rockets are the first to try to create that monster in Zhou Qi.

Isaiah Hartenstein

Hartenstein had a very strong showing to begin Summer League, where I wrote about his improved defense. He may spend some time in the G-League next season to further perfect that craft, but with the loss of Tarik Black and/or Nanu, I see Hartenstein as a guy that can step into that role. He can play spot minutes for when Nene is resting or hurt and can shoot the three. If Clint Capela takes the qualifying offer and leaves after the upcoming season, Hartenstein will have to take on a big role in 2019-20, so it is important to use next season to ease him into that potentially huge workload.

Danuel House

House will play in the NBA next season. He is not a G-League player, this man belongs in the NBA. He led the Rockets in scoring three out of five times and came away from Summer League with a strong audition for all 30 NBA teams.

House reminds me of many different guys. He could be the new version of K.J. McDaniels or Troy Williams as the young guy with a lot of upside that never pans out for the Rockets, but might for another team. Or he could be Gerald Green, the strong-willed Houstonian who can rain threes and dunk in your face. He might very well be Green’s younger clone.

Either way, he is a guy that you want on your team. I expect him to field a few offers, but one should hopefully come from the Rockets, and fingers crossed that he is on the roster come next season.

De’Anthony Melton

Lastly, the future Hall-of-Famer, the soon-to-be Point God, the heir apparent of CP3, the greatest thing since sliced bread, De’Anthony Melton.

Now, this could very well be the grandest hyperbole I’ve ever written on this website, or maybe it isn’t.

Melton was the Rockets’ star in Vegas. It took him a game to get into his rhythm, but man, once he was in his rhythm, it was a wrap. After five games in Vegas, it is definitely easy to see that Melton was a steal for the Rockets with the 46th pick.

I could see him come into Houston and be trusted with minutes right away. He might not get them with CP3, James Harden and Eric Gordon having the guard rotation on lockdown, but if one of them gets hurt, Melton could slide right in there.

My biggest worry for Melton coming out of college was his three-point shot. He shot just 28.4 percent at USC in 2016-17, but in Summer League, he brought that up to 31.5 percent. That shows progress and it is only going to go up from here. It’s certainly better than what Michael Carter-Williams shot last year if that means anything.

At just 20 years old, Melton hustles on every play. He had two double-doubles in Summer League with rebounds. Yes, rebounds. That is something that the veterans will greatly appreciate. It was great to see him out there making these plays in a meaningless game. Now I can’t wait to see what he will do when there is actually something on the line.

I could see him play in the G-League, but he’ll probably go down there for a game, get some good minutes, earn some confidence back, drop 25-10-7 and come back to the Rockets just because he’s bored. He’s too good for the G-League. He has the talent to play in the NBA right now.