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Young Rockets quickly making their mark

In a rough season, a group of unheralded young players have stood out for Houston.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Rafael Stone has done a superb job as the GM with the Houston Rockets. He was able to find talent and let young players blossom underneath Stephan Silas. Jae Sean Tate, Kenyon Martin Jr, Armoni Brooks, Khyri Thomas, and Kevin Porter Jr have gotten better this season. Stone deserves a ton of credit for dealing with constant injuries and finding players for Coach Silas’ roster fit.

Finding the fit for Silas offense seemed conventional because of his system. Silas’ system needed ball movement and teamwork. He wanted his players to become unselfish and smarter with the basketball. Stone wanted players that could amplify Silas’ offense of X’s and O’s. Kelly Olynyk is a prime example because of his basketball IQ.

The front office and coaching had to go through a huge sample of players in order to gauge their roster fit. Luckily, the Rockets’ organization seem to have found that fit for next season.

Thomas got signed by the Rockets May 7, which was the day before the Rockets played the Utah Jazz. He marked a career-high 27 points off 47.6 percent from the field. But within in the last four games, Thomas has averaged 16.3 points per game, 5 assists, 2.3 steals, and 1 turnover. Impressive numbers from a player who only averaged seven minutes per night with the Detroit Pistons.

Although the Rockets have injured players, Thomas took full advantage of his opportunity. He’s making 43 percent of his shots off 13.8 attempts a game. His shooting percentage is low from behind the arc because he takes 6.8 attempts a game and only makes 30 percent of them. Eventually, the shots will fall if he continues to be diligent and consistent.

“It has been fun to coach these guys. It’s been a good year overall. But when you’re in the midst of our injuries, you hope that guys buy in and understand the importance of the opportunities that they are given. And that’s what these guys are doing.” - Silas

For an individual who won Big East DPOY two-times while attending Creighton University, his offensive rating is a high 122.1, while his true shooting percentage is 55.1 percent. Thomas’ usage rating has increased from 14.9 to 21.2 percent. He continues to improve while playing underneath this coaching staff.

According to the Athletic, Thomas has signed a multiyear contract with the Rockets. “It all sounds good but I got to earn it,” Thomas said.

In the last five games, Martin has averaged 20.8 points per game, 9.2 rebounds, and is shooting 57.9 percent from the field. Martin has showed his explosive ability off pick-and-roll and is making enormous blocks. He has also looked valuable from behind the arc by making 64 percent of his threes in the last five game games too.

Martin continues to grow and get confident on offense. He never hesitates when has a decent look at the basket.

Martin’s upside has shown his versatility and athleticism. At 6’6”, he plays like a big man and finishes dramatically around the basket. Martin’s IQ allows him to cut towards the basket for better shot opportunities, including making good decisions in pick-and-roll scenarios.

Martin averages 1.34 points per possession and is in the 89.9 percentile among pick-and-roll men per Synergy. While cutting to the basket, he averages 1.14 points per possession on a 12.1 percent frequency rate.

He continues to impress, but if Martin wants to become more dominant, ball handling is the key. At his height, he needs a variety of moves to get by lockdown defenders. It would also be good to see him develop a shot in a pick-and-pop scheme.

But besides his ball handling, Martin is a human highlight reel. He has total of 60 dunks this season. Hopefully, we’ll see Martin in the dunk contest next year.

Brooks has become a young sharpshooter for the Rockets and continues to progress. He shoots 38.6 percent off 7.3 attempts a game. His true shooting and efficiency field goal percentage are about equal at 56 percent.

Brooks can find his shot off different type of the ball screens, including away from the ball. He can also shoot with little space from defenders and has unlimited range from behind the three-point line. Brook could shoot 5-10 from beyond the arc and is reliable to get hot. He shoots 39.6 percent in catch-in-shoot situations, which makes him dangerous.

When Brooks develops an off-the-dribble skill, he’ll become even scarier underneath Silas.

If the lottery decision goes south for the Rockets, Stone will have it all figured out. The Rockets have a ton of young talent on their roster.