When the Houston Rockets drafted Jalen Green number two overall, there was plenty of hype around the decision. Green, from the start, stated he should be the first player chosen, and you would think people would appreciate the confidence.
That wasn't the case, as articles, posts, and talking heads complained about his overconfidence. The new face of the Rockets franchise wasn't humble enough and did way too much talking. Compare this to the "cerebral" and "mature" Cade Cunningham, who you rarely hear in the media, the contrast was apparent. It only intensified after the Rockets and Detroit Pistons game where Green stared down Cunningham, most notably after a dunk.
Critics couldn't wait to overanalyze Green’s game after every loss and bad shooting night.
Weird but true: the Rockets are 6-0 without Jalen Green, and 2-16 with him. (h/t ScaryWolverine/Reddit)— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) December 9, 2021
Here is another example of this lazy narrative.
The Rockets are 2-16 with Jalen Green and 6-0 without him. pic.twitter.com/Wgdb5LZk5U— Basketball Forever (@Bballforeverfb) December 10, 2021
Insinuating that Green, who has played fewer games than a college season, is a bust already is social media at its worst and again lazy. The Rockets lost 20 games in a row last year, and Green wasn't even in the league yet.
Did the Rockets lose 15 straight games with Green in the lineup? Yes, that is a fact. And have the Rockets won seven in a row, mainly with Green on the injured list? Yes, that is correct. Is it as simple as Rockets minus Green equals a much better team? No, of course not, and here is why that is a lazy narrative.
The Rockets’ season changed once they got out of their own way
It is now known now as "the double big lineup," which started Daniel Theis at center and Chrisitan Wood at power forward. This lineup was a problem from the beginning, as it limited Houston’s spacing and ball movement.
Opposing teams made it a point to leave Theis wide open on the three-point line and clog the lane, which in turn made driving to the basket almost impossible. Game after the game, the Rockets suffered from this lineup.
In the first 17 games, the Rockets shot only 30.9 percent from three-point range, averaging 100.2 points per game, and only 42.5 percent shooting overall. This led to the worst record in the league and a 15-game losing streak.
Then the report came out about Coach Silas being on the hot seat. The Rockets would change their starting lineup that night, moving Theis to the bench and starting Wood at center. Here is a point a lot of Green detractors seem to miss. Green did play in that Chicago Bulls game and was already thriving with the additional space.
Including the Bulls game where he only played 11 minutes before leaving with a hamstring injury, Green was shooting 25-52 over his last five games. With the new spacing and ball movement, he was shooting 4-5 in the Bulls game. As you can see, Green was becoming more comfortable, and his shot was starting to fall.
In those five shots versus the Bulls, you could see Green had more room to drive and operate around the paint. Wood rolling to the basket at the center position that game kept his defender from camping out in the lane. This formula and adding Garrison Mathews and Armoni Brooks into the rotation have been the biggest reason for the now seven-game winning streak. Green being out for most of the streak is a coincidence, nothing more.
What makes the narrative even worse is that it's the complete opposite of what will happen once Green is back in the lineup. Green with this current version of the Rockets will thrive. His shooting percentages will go up with all the spacing he will have to work with driving to the basket. Green has one of the best first steps already in the league. Teams won't just stand in the paint and wait for Green at the basket.
Imagine Green on one wing with Mathews on the other, Wood diving to the basket, and Gordon at the top. Of course, teams will have to pick their poison at this point, and even if that means leaving Tate open, he is still more of an offensive threat than Theis.
The Rockets, during the streak, are also shooting over 75 percent from the free-throw line. That percentage won't set the world on fire, but it is a lot better than the league-worst 68.7 from the charity stripe through the first 17 games. That is a sizeable difference considering how much the Rockets go to the line. They were number one in free throw attempts during that 15-game losing streak.
As you can see, Green being out during the winning steak is nowhere near the main reason for the turnaround. If anything, it should get Rockets fans even more excited considering how much better they will be once Green is back in the starting lineup. Just remember to bookmark the "Green is why the Rockets were losing Tweets."