Confession: I missed the Orlando Magic game.
A friend wanted to make plans. Typically, I’d try to reschedule around a Rockets game. I chose differently this time.
Rockets fans: don’t watch every game. For the love of all that’s right, it’s Christmas. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, celebrate yourself. Your inner child. Read a book, play a video game or hold a loved one close. Watch the Rockets on occasion, but don’t subject yourself to a game if there’s something pleasant to do.
After all, it’s hard to watch an NBA team that doesn’t roster a starting-caliber point guard.
If you’re one of the last vestigates of believing Kevin Porter Jr. is a point guard, I apologize. We might as well start at the beginning, though. Who should be the next Rockets’ point guard — and should it be the one they currently have?
Can Kevin Porter Jr. become the point guard the Rockets need?
I just thought of a meme.
“Mom, can we get a point guard?”
“We already have a point guard at home”
The point guard at home:
Well, the point guard at home has a 5.6 to 3.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. That’s really bad. The only significant player with a worse ratio is Joel Embiid. On a related note: he’s Joel Embiid. You live with it. He’s not a point guard, either.
They’re the top two players in turnovers per game this season. The next point guard on that list is Ja Morant. He’s getting 7.8 dimes to 3.7 turnovers. To start, that’s much better. Morant also comes equipped with elite rim pressure. Honestly, I’m not going to waste a lot of words on why Ja Morant is a better player than Kevin Porter Jr. If that’s something you can’t accept, I’d recommend a lobotomy.
This isn’t meant to be a hit job. I like Porter Jr. I think he’s an excellent catch-and-shoot player who can attack closeouts as a secondary option. I think he’s a perfect sixth man, and if you consider that an insult, go take in some Jamal Crawford highlights.
I just don’t think he’s a point guard. I also can’t accept the argument that he’s “still learning the position”. Here’s the deal: when a basketball player has innate point guard qualities, they’re usually recognized early. There are 14-year-olds across America who are already point guards.
So who should run point for this team next season?
Should the Rockets draft a floor general?
Here’s the good news: this is a great draft to need a point guard from.
You’ve heard of Scoot Henderson. He’s prime Derrick Rose with 75 percent of Chris Paul’s instincts. He’d go first overall in roughly any draft that didn’t have Victor “The Lamb of God” Wembanyama in it.
He’s not the only option. Frankly, I’m not convinced Amen Thompson wouldn’t have gone first overall in 2022. This is a 6’7” point guard with outlier run-and-jump athleticism and tremendous floor vision. The jumper is a huge question mark, but even if he doesn’t figure it out, Thompson could be effective with four-out spacing around him. Draft Thompson and sign Myles Turner, and the Rockets might be cooking with gas next season.
Meanwhile, the Arkansas Razorbacks have two intriguing options. Personally, I’m not sure about Nick Smith Jr. He’s nice! However, much like Porter Jr., he’s more of a combo guard. Smith Jr. is a willing and capable passer, but he’d prefer to call his own number if possible.
On the plus side, he’s a great shooter. If the Rockets want to commit to an offense featuring Alperen Sengun as a passing hub, Smith Jr. fits the vision.
His teammate Anthony Black may not, although the jumper does look like it’s rounding into form. Like Thompson, Black is a 6’7” point guard. He’s a good athlete, albeit not on Thompson’s level, but he may be an even more gifted passer, and the jumper has at least shown more signs of life.
At the same time, the Rockets may not draft a point guard. They may draft a wing, or they could trade their pick altogether.
In the business, that’s what we call foreshadowing.
Should the Rockets trade for a star point guard?
Trae Young has found his way into trade rumors recently. I’ll pass.
Young is obviously a phenom. Let’s be honest: if the Rockets traded for him, we’d all be excited. On the other hand, this is roughly the worst defensive guard in the history of basketball. Young stinks on that end of the floor. He seems to ruffle a lot of feathers too. Pass!
On the other hand, I’m a little obsessed with the idea of trading for LaMelo Ball. Yes, he’s also a poor defender, but at 6’7”, there’s at least room for improvement.
There are also whispers of him leaving Charlotte, although they aren’t as loud as the rumors around Young. Still, it’s not hard to envision the scenario.
The Hornets are one of the only teams this season with a worse record than the Rockets. Let’s suppose they land the second overall pick. They have to draft Henderson, right? Sure, they could try a duel point guard model, but alternatively, they may cut their losses on Ball. Imagine the Rockets had the fifth overall pick. They could construct a compelling offer around that pick and some future assets.
Imagine the Hornets are picking third. They’re in the same dilemma: Amen Thompson is the presumptive choice. Suppose, again, that the Rockets are picking fifth. They could offer the Hornets an opportunity to draft Thompson along with his twin brother Ausar.
That would have a real benefit for the Hornets. The two brothers have incredible on-court chemistry, and how insanely marketable would that be?
Anyway, I’m daydreaming. This is a scenario that needs a number of contingencies to fall into place at the same time. An easier situation has the Rockets drafting a wing and signing a point guard.
Are there many appealing options?
Should the Rockets target a free agent point guard?
Surely you’ve heard the James Harden rumors. Allegedly, rival executives are “connecting the dots” and imagining a scenario where the prodigal son returns.
This is a whole article in itself. I’ll try to be brief. Harden isn’t a traditional point guard either, but his 10.3 to 3.8 assist-to-turnover ratio is sterling. He’s a fantastic playmaker, and he would make this team better.
He’s also expensive and old. I’ll leave it at this: I’m open to the idea.
It’s a better option than Fred VanVleet. I don’t mean to knock the Raptors’ floor general. He’s a good player. It’s also going to cost $40 million a season or more to entice him to join the worst team in the Western Conference. That’s a commitment to the middle.
The other high-profile option is D’Angelo Russell. I’ll pass again. Russell is too pick-and-roll dependent for my liking. Once again, this is a good player, but if the Rockets are going to spam pick-and-roll, they ought to have an elite ball-handler at the helm.
There are some solid lower-profile options available. Derrick Rose is having a rough season in New York, but prior to this year, he’d been spacing the floor at an elite level for a couple of seasons in a row. He’s also a heady floor general who elevates the play of those around him. He’d be fine.
A Patrick Beverley reunion could make some sense. He’s having an awful season, but he does have a habit of injecting some intensity into the culture of a young team.
Dennis Schroder seemed to enjoy his time here. Jevon Carter is a solid, low-usage, three-and-D guard. None of these guys are likely to have you salivating, but in a world where the Rockets draft Ausar Thompson or Cam Whitmore, they may not need much outside of table setting and floor spacing at the point.
As in, a guy who’ll find Jabari Smith Jr. in the corner when he’s open. Someone who can run pick-and-roll without throwing a lob. A primary ball-handler who can make snap judgments that often end up being right.
A point guard.