We kick off our player reviews with a trio of players Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey (and us fans!) hoped would contribute, but instead were part of a total bust of an offseason by Houston’s front office.
Michael Carter-Williams was the one out of this trifecta that we actually had the most hope for, though not initially, as most of us were shocked when he signed with the Rockets in the summer as a free agent. Carter-Williams surprised us all and showed out in the preseason, averaging 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He flashed a nice slash-to-the-bucket game and played serviceable enough defense in the small sample size that it seemed Morey might have been on to something.
Turns out, however, that we were right to be stunned at the signing. MCW proved that preseason is just that: preseason. He looked nothing like the guy who was getting to the bucket at will (66 percent preseason shooting) when the games didn’t count, and exactly like the Carter-Williams we all knew when the games started for real.
He played in 16 contests for the Rockets, averaging just 9 minutes, while putting up 4.3 points, 1 rebound, and 1.3 assists per game. He shot just 41 percent from the field, though he did knock down 37 percent of his triples. But when he missed, he often missed badly.
He was also a negative on defense, and by January, the Rockets had seen enough, sending him to the Chicago Bulls for a 2020 second-round draft pick.
Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight came over to the Rockets together last August in the Ryan Anderson dump off. Houston also had to include De’Antony Melton, a young guard with some potential, which is a stark reminder of how terrible that Anderson contract was (2016 free agency was an interesting time).
The Rockets knew they were going to have to bite the bullet in some fashion to get out from under that $20-million-a-year deal, but the hope was that the extremely raw but athletically talented Chriss, and the injured Knight, who was once a formidable force in iso before his knees gave way, could find a place among a veteran squad that was hoping to compete for a title. Instead, they gave the Rockets nothing.
Chriss played in 16 games and looked totally lost on the court. He couldn’t shoot, was completely flummoxed by Houston’s switching defensive scheme and averaged almost as many personal fouls per game (1.1) as points (1.8).
Knight definitely looked like he was coming off of a major injury, but he did show a little of his old self, like when he went for 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists versus the Cleveland Cavaliers in January. But mostly he needed time on the court to work himself back into shape, a luxury the Rockets couldn’t afford after their slow start.
So at the trade deadline, the Rockets shipped both Knight and Chriss to the Cavs in a three-team deal that that also included the Sacramento Kings that netted them Iman Shumpert along with Wade Baldwin and Nik Stauskas (the latter two were then moved to the Indiana Pacers in a salary dump). Houston also gave up this year’s first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick in the deal.
Three swings by Daryl Morey and three big misses, and the failure of any of this group to materialize helped contribute to Houston’s subpar 11-14 start.