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Five Out Series - The 15 percent-ish mark

A Better Week for the NBA.

Houston Rockets v Toronto Raptors
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Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Welcome back to Five Out, wherein the NBA doesn’t looks quite as grotesque as last week.

This week features more Houston Rockets content, as the NBA (and the Nets specifically) seem less intent on self-immolation.

Note - I’m hopefully going to stick with Thursday for Five Out, as that’s a TNT game night, and the Rockets aren’t likely to be playing, so it doesn’t interfere with gameday stuff.

Could The Rockets Be Better?

Could the very young and inexperienced Houston Rockets be better? Some other teams with young coaches are doing quite well - Utah, Memphis, Boston are some examples. Those teams, however, aren’t a collection of almost entirely very young players, especially in the primary roles.

There was an interesting observation in the game thread that the Rockets out of timeout plays were usually well-designed, and worked well. So that shows that when running designed actions, the actions are good, and the Rockets do it well. It’s the rest of the time that’s the problem. Is that down to coaching, or on the floor leadership?

Right now, I’m leaning to “on the floor”. There’s no one to settle the team down, and you can just SEE all the young, talented, Rockets pressing to make the big play, to be the hero.

That said, at some point there has to be a recognition of the lineups that work, rather than the ones written down somewhere as being The Rotation. At 15% of the way into the season, we’re starting to see what, and who, works best together. If the in-game management doesn’t begin to reflect it, that’s a concern.

The Rockets could, and should, look better. Their offense typically looks disorganized after one action, and their defense cannot defend beyond one action. Yet we know they can run pretty plays out of a time out. No, there’s no practice time in the NBA, but every team deals with this. If we’re not seeing a more organized Rockets at around 30 games, I’ll start beating a drum for...something.

Meanwhile, players ARE showing development, even if it looks a mess at time.

Should We Worry About Jabari Smith Jr.?

Short Answer: Nope.

Longer Answer: Also, no.

Longest Answer: Being a 19 12 year old rookie, being sick, not being a ball handler, or offense initiator, is all contributing to Jabari looking lost much of the time. The size, defensive ability and intensity, and pure shot are all there. That hasn’t changed. He’s also being asked to expand his game, by attacking the basket and so forth, I believe. I disagree with this approach. It think it would be far better to let Jabari nail down what he’s elite at doing - shooting, before venturing into other things. Forcing defenses to respect what he CAN do at an NBA level should allow him to do work in more.

Stop Consigning Players Under 23 Years Old To 6th Man Roles

What is this rush to stick Kevin Porter Jr., currently to my thinking experiencing a breakout into a complete offensive player, to being a sixth man? This is bonkers, Rockets Twitter. Kevin Porter Jr. is currently averaging 19points ,6 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal per game, at 22 years old.

What more is required under the circumstances? He’s currently #21 in assists per game, and that list features several teammates, which means that at least 10 teams have a lead initiator (because KAT and Jokic are on that list) type who averages fewer assists per game than KPJ. That doesn’t strike me as a 6th man.

Jalen Green doesn’t need to be the point guard, because the Rockets already have one.

Well, they might have two.

Alperen Sengun is also breaking out, especially when given a lead role in the offense. His assist numbers aren’t that high, but he’s is a passing PRODIGY. Not initiating offense through him, at least some of the time, is criminal. PER isn’t perhaps the best stat, but it has its uses. The top center by PER in the NBA is of course, Nikola Jokic at 29. The second? Alperen Sengun at 26. He really is that good an offensive force, and the sooner the Rockets adapt to that, the better.

Is #2 by PER at the center position a sixth man? Not if you want the Rockets to win.

We haven’t even touched Kenyon Martin Jr. He’s a starting NBA wing, right now. Yes, his defense is still suspect, but things just happen, usually good, when he’s on the court. His improved 3pt shot (hovering around 37%), and greater shot volume, is opening the door to his offensive game. He continues to be the most fun shot blocker in the NBA.

What’s Going On In The West?

It’s difficult to say. Right now a team expected to compete with the Rockets for the Worsen For Wemby lotto ball, the Utah Jazz, sit at 10-3, atop the Western Conference. Yes, there may be some flukiness to the result, as teams predicted to be strong aren’t doing well, but the Jazz point differential (+6.1) is really only behind the stronger NBA teams: Phoenix, Milwaukee, Cleveland. Phoenix, Bad Vibes Off Season Champs, have an elite 9.2 point differential and aren’t tops perhaps because they’ve played two fewer games than the Jazz.

Meanwhile the Warriors are languishing at 4-7, and could well be 3-8 without 47 points and a lot of zebra love for Steph Curry against the Kings. They haven’t reloaded. Their starting unit is great, and the rest of their team is awful. I am grateful they took Kuminga instead of Franz Wagner.

Dallas resembles the Harden Rockets in their heliocentric approach, except they appear to have at best slightly worse players at every position around Luka than the Rockets put around Harden. It’s a shame. A real shame.

I expect Denver to improve, and Memphis to stay strong, as they’re a solid team, but with no real star power beyond Morant.

Nets Decide Against Total Flameout - For Now

The Brooklyn Nets backed off from their decision to double down on genocide denial, by choosing NOT to hire Ime Udoka. Maybe former Spurs front office buddy Sean Marks got the scoop on what Udoka actually did, but my sense is that Nets ownership decided that their might be such a thing as too much bad publicity. In the meantime, Jacques Vaughn has once again shed his bench coach chrysalis and transformed into a, like a butterfly possibly short-lived, head coach.

Meanwhile Kyrie Irving continues on his “Redemption Collection Quest”. He may currently be the second least employable player in the NBA.


Biggest Rockets Breakout This Season?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    (20 votes)
  • 50%
    (91 votes)
  • 5%
    (10 votes)
  • 18%
    (34 votes)
  • 6%
    (11 votes)
  • 8%
    (15 votes)
181 votes total Vote Now