It’s difficult to know what to do with this season in terms of writing about it. In terms of game recaps. What’s the story, the narrative, if the story is known in advance? That story for the Rockets is - patience, improvement, hope for the future.
The problem is, that sort of thing can be hard to spot within 48 minutes, sometimes. With a team full of young players, like the Rockets, things can look good, as they did for much of the first quarter. Then they can look bad, as the Heat, a team which considers itself a contender, got serious in the second quarter and built a lead the Rockets wouldn’t surmount. They can look good again as a third string enters the game.
I’m not much interested in the Miami Heat, they’re a good team, and will do well, as long as Kyle Lowry doesn’t fall through a chasm to the center of the earth; he hurls himself at the floor so hard. Let’s look at individual Rockets and how they did:
Jalen Green - Scored 20pts, didn’t shoot it all that well. Looked lost on defense, and was muscled aside at times. Got his shooting a bit more dialed in, perhaps as the quality of defender declined. His playmaking could be better. I worry that Silas’ offense is perhaps too unstructured. It maybe leaves too many decisions to young players who aren’t yet qualified to make those decisions well. Nothing to worry about, really, at preseason game 2.
Kevin Porter Jr - Got away from a balanced facilitator/scorer role, into the scoring side of things. When that didn’t work against the likes of Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler, he pressed to score more, and the attempts, and decisions, got worse. He has to learn to level himself out, and to get others going with good looks, not bailout passes, when it isn’t clicking for him.
Daniel Theis - A perfectly decent, but limited, player we may see too much of before Sengun takes his starting job. Made good decisions, got called for a truly stupendous number of mostly weak fouls - 5 in 22 minutes. Miami isn’t THAT good. No one is. Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry may prove a really indigestible combination for outsiders to stomach.
Danuel House Jr - Not. Good. Missed shots aren’t the problem, it’s the terrible nature of the shots that were missed. House grabbed some rebounds, but generally brought back “Ariza as offensive lead player” memories. As a bench forward, he’s great. This game did not make a case for him as a starter.
Christian Wood - Also not good. Pressed. Missed. Wasn’t in position defensively, and it probably wasn’t anyone else’s fault. He has some real gripe about not being found on offense. He also can’t be a 50% FT shooter, as an inside player, and offensive leader. If the Rockets were good, you couldn’t keep him on the floor in close games. That’s a worry.
Eric Gordon - Did not play. Injured ankle or something. Not a good Gordon Showcase for national TV.
Kenyon Martin Jr - Probably needs House’s job. Particularly if House isn’t shooting it well. Bouncy, active, and a surprisingly good rebounder for his size. Part of the late comeback against the Heat bench.
David Nwaba - A useful player. Energetic, forceful, slightly frightening, both defending and shooting.
Dante Exum - Looks like a player, at least an NBA bench player. Good defense, passing, and an aggressive attacker, with a far more advanced game than his younger peers.
Alperen Sengun - A star in the making at best. At worst, a destroyer of opposing benches, but likely more. His understanding of the game is amazing for his age, and his activity purposeful and constant. Possibly the Rockets best passer. Needs to be stronger, but more offense needs to be built around his abilities.
Armoni Brooks - A sniper who doesn’t kill you with his defense. Brooks is a reliable shooter for an offense that should generate a ton of kick outs from drives (that’s all it seems to do right now). Rockets need to find a real roster spot for him.
Josh Christopher - Looking more like a solid NBA player with every outing. We need to see him against starters, though. He’s compensated for his flat-looking shot from VSL by lobbing rain makers at the basket. A work in progress, but progress is being made. A tenacious defender, and he’s also a powerful and athletic attacker at the basket. He’s a keeper.
Usman Garuba - A possible savant on defense - excellent footwork and anticipation in a big guy. As promising as his defense looks, his offense is well, not. Lots of opportunity in a low pressure environment might help, but he’s a decent defender right now, and mostly needs reps.
DJ Augustin - Solid. Reliable. Not up to much, but will organize an offense. Will he organize THIS offense? That’s less clear.
JaeSean Tate - DNPCD. Not sure why.
I’ll take the Rockets third string against any in the NBA at the moment.
How are you feeling?
A little surprised at how rough the kids look.
Ready to start the real games.
Move over Luka, it’s Sengun’s NBA now.