When you are a rebuilding team like the Houston Rockets, the here and now aren't as important as the future. The Rockets, of course, are all about the future, with four first-round picks playing for the team at different points this year. The later in the year it gets, especially after the trade deadline, you start to see rebuilding teams play their younger players more and more.
The Rockets drafted Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba, and Josh Christopher. Two of these players have played for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets’ G- League affiliate. Christopher has played well enough to have a role on the Rockets and only played a few games.
Garuba had been out with an injury but wasn't getting a lot of time with the Rockets because of the current log jam at center. This, however, isn't the only young prospects the Rockets should be keeping their eyes on this upcoming season. There are 32 more games left in the regular season for the Vipers and plenty of opportunities to watch some of their young talent.
You know about players like Garuba, who is currently with the Vipers, but here are some of the players you may have not heard much about this year that you should be paying close attention to as the season goes on.
Daishen Nix is one of the Rockets' young players signed before the season started. Nix was part of the high-profile G League Ignite team with players like Jalen Green, Johnathan Kuminga, and Isaiah Todd. All three of these players were drafted, of course, as Green and Kuminga went number 2 and 7th overall.
Even though the team featured two other veteran point guards, Nix led the Ignite in assists at over five per game. Nix wasn't drafted but was part of the 76ers Summer League team. He was then picked up by the Rockets and signed to a two-way deal earlier in the season.
Nix played in eight games for the Rockets but has shown the most promise with the Vipers. During the Showcase Cup, where teams played for a chance to make it to Vegas for the Cup Championship before the regular season starts, Nix averaged 16 points, and 5 assist in 14 games.
The regular season just started for the Vipers, and Nix has been even better, averaging 30 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists 4.3 steals while shooting 55.9 percent from the field. Nix has shown the ability to run an offense and still score efficiently, especially in the last several games.
Nix has shown that he can take full command of an offense, and Coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah has shown confidence in him as the floor leader for the Vipers
Free throw shooting is the one area Nix will have to improve on, but with his three-point percentage improving, it is just a matter of time. If Nix keeps playing like this, it may be five players drafted or signed this year playing significant time in the near future for the Rockets.
Tyler Bey was the 36th overall pick in 2020 to the 76ers. He was eventually traded to the Mavs, where he played in 18 games. Then Bey was picked up by the Vipers and, at times, has shown why he was the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.
Bey is a versatile forward who, at times this year, has played center for the Vipers. In a game vs. the Legends, Bey put up 26 and 11 and showed improved offensive skills scoring in a variety of ways.
Earlier in the year, during the Showcase games, Bey averaged 10.3 points 6.8 rebounds on 51 percent shooting, all while playing out of position at the center spot. So far in the four regular-season games, Bey hasn't been on the court as much as earlier in the year, with players like Gerald Green and Usman Garuba joining the team. Even so, he is still averaging 14.8 points and 8.6 rebounds in a little over 23 minutes a game. He had a 31 and 13 game to kick off the regular season vs. the Texas Legends.
If Bey can improve his outside shooting (only 13 percent in 4 regular-season games), he could carve out a spot in the NBA because his defense is already NBA ready.
Rockets fans recently saw Queen playing a handful of games. Queen went undrafted in the 2020 draft and then signed with the Rockets. Queen was cut during training camp but did sign with the Vipers in early 2021. After that, Queen was with the Lakers briefly before again signing with the Vipers.
During the Showcase season, Queen led the team in scoring at 22 a game, and his play led to the Rockets signing him to a two-way deal. Queen played in eight games for the Rockets this year before being reassigned to the Vipers.
Queen is averaging 29.7 points on 46.7 percent shooting in two games so far in the regular season. During his time with the Vipers, Queen has shown the ability to score from all three levels on the court. He was the go-to guy during the first part of the year and at 6'6” is the ideal size for the shooting guard or small forward position.
Consistency is the main area Queen has to work on because he has all the skills to be a solid NBA player playing consistent minutes.