Welcome back to Five Out. It’s Thursday! But the Rockets are playing! But it’s Thursday!
Anyhow, as ever, run to the corner.
The Evaluation of Others
This week Zach Lowe’s podcast “The Lowe Post” featured coverage of the Rockets with Lowe and ESPN college draft expert, Johnathan Givony looking at the performance of NBA rookies. I came away from the podcast generally agreeing with Lowe, and less impressed with Givony. I thought he took a rather superficial look at the Rockets, at best.
To be fair, evaluation of NBA players isn’t his strength, but player evaluation is meant to be, and Givony mostly offered criticism of Kevin Porter Jr, playing Daishen Nix and Eric Gordon and little else. It was almost as if he was a commenter on this website and watched all of one Rockets game this season.
While the criticism struck me as generally correct based on what we’ve seen, it wasn’t the assignment. The assignment was to talk about Rockets rookies, rather than complaining about Silas’ system, and (believe it or not) the Rockets second most experienced starter (Porter) which is what Givony mostly did.
Aesthetic preferences aren’t analysis. Somehow the aesthetics of Oklahoma City were better, and OKC has “more time” to develop players? How long does OKC plan to be terrible? Because as good as Gilgeous-Alexander is, OKC is still terrible. How long can a small market like OKC sustain what they’re doing?
I certainly understand why a neutral wouldn’t enjoy the Rockets right now, but I don’t see why it should influence player evaluation.
Developmental Players Mentioned
Zach Lowe, like most of us, has a crush on Tari Eason. Givony did offer some college insight of why Eason fell in the draft: that he didn’t remember or run plays. As the Rockets don’t really seem to run many plays, this isn’t a problem, but moreover, I do wonder. What does this have to do with Eason now? His minutes with KJ Martin and “The Goon Squad” are basically the only net positive scoring minutes for the Rockets. What is he doing wrong, besides missing layups for a couple of weeks?
The thoughts on Jabari Smith were again more positive from Lowe, and with Givony, again, it seems to be a matter of “did I like watching this team the one time I watched them”. The remarks from Lowe on Smith seemed spot on - his handle isn’t strong, he shouldn’t take more than a couple of dribble before shooting or passing. His shot is coming around. He’s not featured in the offense, because Kevin Porter dribbles a lot. His defense, and attitude are good. There was a lot of talk from Givony about Smith Jr. not being athletic. More on that sort of thing below.
There was one interesting remark on Daishen Nix, which is, essentially, he’s fat again, and that his weight was a big factor in him not being drafted. If Nix can’t get to the rim, and he seemingly can’t, much of his value is gone. He needs to lose weight to see if it helps his quickness getting to the basket. He should do that in The Valley. His only value seems to be his handle, and spot up shooting.
What Do We Mean By Athleticism, and What Does It Mean To Playing The Game?
What is athleticism? Apparently for many it’s running fast, and jumping high, and perhaps having a statuesque physique. Ok. How relevant is it though? Here’s a question. How many of the best current NBA players are highly athletic? Great leapers? Really fast?
Let’s see, pulling some names at random, - Jokic, no, Doncic, no, Durant, not really, Curry, not especially, Tatum, not really, Lebron, long ago, Booker, no, Butler, no.
Giannis? Ja. Yes. Who else?
Curry’s athleticism is in his insane eye-hand and general body coordination. Anyone measuring that? Or is it just how long an arm is, and how high someone jumps?
I’d submit that there’s a baseline of athleticism necessary to play in the NBA, and that everyone drafted generally has it, and the taller a player is, the less necessary it may be. Jabari Smith has it. Maybe “college dunks” are a measure of future NBA success, but I doubt Chris Paul, or Klay Thompson had a lot of them.
I’ve Seen Enough
I do agree with the criticism, after a quarter of another NBA season, that Kevin Porter is not the ideal future fulcrum of a five out system. He’s an off guard, with some very good passing skills, but I’m far less sure he’s going to get there in terms of being sun around which the Rockets orbit in Silas’ system. He can pass, and pass well, but doesn’t seem to be able to really integrate his own offensive game with the distribution. He might get there, but are the Rockets essentially miscasting a very good shooting guard, who does pass at a high level for the traditional role? Porters’s shooting off the catch is good. It’s even good off the dribble. His attack of the basket would probably be a lot easier if he didn’t just have to stand around. dribble, and then beat a defender every time, if he could attack on the move.
Condemning him for dribbling around right now, to me, misses the point. He’s looking for a pass, or an action, off the dribble, and mostly, there simply isn’t any. If no one moves, where is he supposed to find the assist? It’s just a pass into another “one-on-one-beat-your-man” situation, or a contested shot. If he’s looking for a good play, he’s mostly not going to see it. He’s not quite good enough to create that situation off the threat he presents because he doesn’t finish well enough at the basket. Again, this probably shouldn’t be his primary role right now.
Jalen Green can be the focal point offensive initiation, as can Alperen Sengun. The problem being, the fulcrum of Silas’ five out is going to take a beating, like Harden and Doncic. Unlike them, Green isn’t build like a brick outhouse. An offense built around Sengun distributing needs to look more like Denver, not the current Rockets scheme.
Please Calm Down About Eric Gordon, Hypothetical Critic
Why is Eric Gordon playing? Probably because he contributes, and because the Rockets need to show him playing to trade him. December 15th is when trading will really open, as many newly signed players are eligible to be traded. Hopefully this will be about when Eric Gordon is moved. That’s a week from now, and it’s always, always, been a key date.
Why is Eric Gordon starting with two other guards? I don’t know. I have never really known. It didn’t even make a ton of sense with Harden and Chris Paul. In the Harden era, there wasn’t a plausible high quality small forward candidate, aside from when Ariza was playing. The Rockets have three - Martin, Eason and Smith. You could probably play Kevin Porter Jr at “SF”, but then he’s not the initiator of offense, (which is fine). This problem is solved by a Gordon trade, which I do hope happens very soon.
This poll is closed