So far, the Houston Rockets have had an up and mostly down start to the season at 1-4. The good has been the overall play of Alperen Sengun, Christian Wood's steady play, and Jalen Green 30-point explosion vs. the Celtics. The downs have been a result of turnovers, subpar shooting, and inexperience on the court.
Another reason could be the current rotation. The Rockets so far have stayed with the same starting five of Kevin Porter Jr., Green, Jae’Sean Tate, Wood, and Daniel Theis. An argument can be made that Sengun should be in the starting lineup, but up until now, it has been a virtual split between the two centers.
A real issue so far has been the lack of playing time for Armoni Brooks and especially Kenyon Martin Jr. Both players showed promise at the end of last year, and both were expected to be even better this year. So in the future, both should be in the rotation regardless of what veteran may currently be in front of them.
Why Kenyon Martin Jr. and Armoni Brooks should be in the rotation
Through five games, Brooks is averaging a little under 10 minutes per contest with two DNPs, and Martin Jr. is averaging only nine minutes a game with one DNP. The Rockets have lacked shooting and overall energy this season, and both players provide those two exact qualities.
Brooks came to the Rockets last year from the Rio Grande Valley Vipers with the reputation of being a knockdown shooter. He made his presence felt, breaking the record for three-pointers in the first 17 games of a playing career.
Brooks finished the year shooting over 38 percent from beyond the arc, and with the departure of Sterling Brown and Kelly Olynyk is the Rockets’ best shooter. The Rockets are actually top 10 so far in shooting, so I am sure you ask why Brooks needs to be in the rotation?
If you look at the Rockets’ rotation, they don't have a lot of consistent shooters. Green so far has been streaky, Gordon has been great, but who knows how long he will be on the roster. Also, the biggest issue so far has been the Rockets’ start to games. They have had lousy shooting performances early in games that have put them in a hole, and then they start to make shots in garbage time.
Inserting Brooks earlier into the game will help spread the floor and open lanes for Green and Porter Jr. There is a difference when you have a known shooter on the floor. Defenses know Brooks is a shooter, so they stay attached to his hip and aren’t able to clog the lane.
Brooks' absence from the rotation is not as egregious as Martin Jr. Brooks is still playing behind Eric Gordon, who is a veteran, playing mostly well, and likely being showcased for a trade. Martin Jr.’s absence, on the other hand, doesn't make much sense. To end last year, Martin Jr. was probably the best player on the team considering Wall, Wood, Gordon, and several other players were either injured or resting.
Martin Jr. provided highlight blocked shots and thunderous dunks from the day he became a permanent fixture on the roster. What was even more impressive was his shooting. It went from a negative at the start of his career to a real asset by the end of the year. Martin Jr. shot over 50 percent in the last 15 games from the three-point range.
That type of progression throughout a rookie year should automatically get you a spot in the following year's rotation. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case, as players like Danuel House and David Nwaba have played ahead of Martin Jr. Martin Jr. is the type of player the Rockets need on the court, considering they have lacked energy and big plays to start the season.
Its hard to justify Martin Jr. not being on the court. He is a better player at this point than House, and even though Nwaba brings value, he is not part of the long-term plans for the Rockets. A Gordon trade may open up minutes for Martin Jr., but there is no reason he shouldn't be playing close to 20 minutes a game right now.
Look, it is only five games into the season, and Coach Silas is still trying to figure out who fits where, but both Martin Jr. and Brooks have proven they can bring value to the Rockets’ rotation, and both should have the chance to prove that last year wasn't a fluke, but the first step in becoming vital parts of a winning team.