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Five Out: Rockets Players

Started at the bottom, now we’re still at the bottom.

Houston Rockets v Dallas Mavericks
Little Trust?
Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

That’s right, it’s Five Out, Not Quite New Year’s Edition. This will cover some Rockets, and putative, Rockets.

Run to the corner.

Alperen Sengun - Least Trusted Man on The Rockets?

Here are some current stats on Alperen Sengun’s rank overall in the NBA 22-23.

Rebound Percentage: 18th. Total Offensive Rebounds: 8th. Offensive Rebound Percentage: 7th. Field Goal Percentage: 19th. Personal Fouls: Top 20. Minutes Played Per Game: 152nd

One takeaway from this is, one of the NBA’s absolute best rebounders, and top 20 in field goals, is playing roughly the minutes of a 6th man.

Certainly the fouls play a part in this, but this is, frankly, absurd. By several measures, right now, the best player on the Houston Rockets is Alperen Sengun.

Alperen isn’t “Costco Jokic”, because Sengun is currently at least as good or better than Jokic was at the same age. Sengun might never win an MVP, but Nikola Jokic was in no danger of winning one at age 20, either. Nikola Jokic also spent three seasons top 20 in personal fouls.

The Rockets best player is playing the minutes of a 6th man, because of system fit. The best player, on the worst team in the NBA, isn’t getting starter minutes.

Something is wrong.

Kenyon Martin Jr. - Second Least Trusted Man on The Rockets?

Continuing the trend of “Let’s not give our best players starter minutes.” we have KJ Martin Jr.

Who is who? (per 36)

A- 21pts/4.4rbs/3.7ast/48%FG/35%3pt

B - 16pts/4.5rbs/3ast/46%FG/40%3pt

C- 16pts/7.3rbs/2.1ast/56%FG/31%3pt

D - 13.3pts/4.5rbs/2.8ast/44%FG/30%3pt

These are all considered top young small forwards in the NBA. They are:

A - Franz Wagner (33mpg)

B - Mikal Bridges (36mpg)

C - Kenyon Martin Jr. (24mpg)

D - The Immortal Inner Circle HoFer Herb Jones (28mpg)

Lots of NBA commentators are justifiably high on Wagner, on Jones, on Bridges. Bridges is 26. Jones and Wagner are basically the same age as KJ Martin. Martin isn’t talked about as much, perhaps because he doesn’t play as much?

Martin’s 3pt shooting fell into the same hole as the rest of the Rockets, but he started the season quite well, and I’d expect him to finish the year at about 35%. (FWIW - Wagner’s usage is roughly 50% higher than everyone else on this list, which probably explains the high point total. Wagner likes to shoot.)

Once again, one of the Rockets best players isn’t getting starters minutes. Why? What possible reason is there for starting Eric Gordon, not a SF, at small forward at this point?

James Harden

Sorry, I had to to talk about this.

Are the Rockets going to pay a high rate for a point guard who:

1. Can’t beat anyone off the dribble anymore.

2. Forced his way out of Houston by completely dogging it.

3. Demanded the destruction of the roster and all trade assets to get his pal Russell Westbrook on the team.

4. Is 33, when the rest of the team is about 20.

5. Will likely demand a long-term max deal.

6. Will make KPJ’s dribbling seem innocent, brief and purposeful.

All that and more, in order to fit a system that doesn’t fit any of the Rockets other players? To make the play in game?

Mostly I think Harden is using Fertitta and the Rockets as a stalking horse, and I CAN see how it would work. In the end, I think that chapter is closed, and should stay that way.

Usman Garuba

This man, Usman, should be your second center, and perhaps a defensive stopper at “PF”, or second big, to get his minutes up. He’s the Rockets second most switchable big, after Tari Eason. He doesn’t have to play drop coverage. In fact, no one but Fernando really needs to play drop coverage, and I’d argue that Sengun looks better trying to switch, than dropping and fouling drivers who blew by defenders who went under a pick.

He’s an absolute pain to play against, as he’s physical and relentless.

Drop coverage only really makes sense in the NBA if you have a team that either can’t switch or actively wants to funnel attackers into a defender, like Joel Embiid or towards Giannis and Lopez. Neither describes the Rockets.

TyTy Washington & Daishen Nix

Thankfully our short-ish Daishen Nix nightmare is over. Nix somehow heard the footsteps of TyTy, but it was too late. Washington simply does more of what a point guard is for. Nix is currently some sort of larval version of James Harden. That’s fine, he’s not yet 21.

I’m skeptical of the thinking that suggests that since Nix went into the G League Ignite rookie program, and then spent most of last year at Rio Grande Vipers, he shouldn’t be a GLeague player anymore. Nix indeed spent his “1 and Done” year as a pro with Ignite but from what I’ve watched of the Ignite, it’s less a team that plays a real system, and more of a mad scramble for attention and touches.

RGV is more like the Rockets, and him getting touches, getting to run an offense, and more importantly, getting in better shape, back in the Valley could only help him. Nix’s indecision on the attack, because he can rarely beat anyone off the dribble, simply breaks his whole game. His inability to make free throws lessens the impact of this powerful frame on the attack. He has brought his FT shooting to “center” levels recently, but that’s 70%, not the 85% and above that an attacking guard needs.

TyTy meanwhile continues to look better and better, and he needs more minutes. If the Rockets included TyTy in lineups that stagger Green and Porter, we might see just how much damage they can do off the ball. Right now most everything is a disjointed, and absolutely anticipated PNR off a short pass or dribble handoff that results not in a driving or shooting lane, but defensive traffic. Perhaps a pass first PG solves that somewhat?


What is to blame?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Too many developmental projects.
    (69 votes)
  • 38%
    Focus on the wrong player.
    (94 votes)
  • 4%
    (12 votes)
  • 11%
    Minutes Allotted By Draft Position
    (27 votes)
  • 6%
    Weird Nix Fix
    (16 votes)
  • 10%
    (25 votes)
243 votes total Vote Now