It's 8:00am July 30, and Daishen Nix is back in the gym after a night that would have been a huge letdown to most people. For Nix, it was another morning to improve his game.
When the 2021 NBA Draft began on July 29, the Houston Rockets already knew at this point who they would be drafting. Months of speculation and an internal Twitter war amongst Rockets fans (were you Mobley Mob or Green Gang?) was finally concluding.
Days before, it was made evident that the Rockets were selecting the high-flying Jalen Green with the number two overall pick. Houston would go on to draft three more players in last year's draft. Keep in mind the Rockets were known league-wide for not valuing draft picks because they were title contenders every year and we're trying to win now so these were their first first-round picks since 2015.
Three of the four picks have had great moments. Josh Christopher has gotten better as the year has gone on, and Alperen Sengun has been a revelation and a steal at number 16. Usman Garuba unfortunately has dealt with injuries most of the year and hasn't seen a lot of playing time.
One player that wasn't drafted and not many people were talking about on draft night may end up being one of the best players out of the entire draft class. Daishen Nix was former McDonalds All American initially committed to playing for the Bruins, but after he received an offer to play for the new G-League Ignite team, he de-committed and signed a one-year deal. This meant he would be on the same team as his childhood friend and future Rockets teammate Jalen Green. Even though players like Green and Johnathan Kuminga received most of the attention, Nix was the floor leader for Ignite.
Nix would go on to be a huge part of Ignite as a rookie despite the team having a couple of NBA veteran point guards in Bobby Brown and Jarrett Jack. Nix only started two games but played almost 27 minutes a night and was part of the team’s closing lineups in many of the games.
Green and Kuminga went number two and number seven in the 2021 draft, but Nix went undrafted despite being a top 20 ranked player coming out of High School. Nix would go on to play with the 76ers G-League team in the Summer League. Nix played in a hand full of games for the 76ers Summer League team but didn't make the final roster, as the 76ers already had a full squad going into the season.
Nix would eventually sign with the Rockets G-League affiliate the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. His play led to a two-way contract and eventually a four-year standard NBA contract with the Rockets. Along the way, Nix has shown great court vision, averaging 7.6 assists a game and an improved scoring averaging 20.6 points a game for the Vipers. His play late in January led to him being named G-League player of the week.
Three-point shooting was supposedly the area that kept him from being drafted, but Nix has shown improvement all year from beyond the arc, shooting 40 percent from deep in 18 regular-season games.
Nix has been one of the biggest reasons the Vipers have the best record in the G-League at 15-5. I recently had a chance to talk with Nix about the players he grew up watching and what has led to the Viper's great play this season.
Interview with Daishen Nix
Growing up in Alaska who were some of the players you watched and pattern your game after while playing in middle school and high school?
The main person that I watched growing up was LeBron, because, you know, he was drafted when I was born. So his progress from the rookie year, all the way until now, it’s like when I’m basically growing up. So LeBron was my biggest one. Chris Paul, Rondo, Dwayne Wade. Just the big names
What went into your decision to decommit from UCLA and decide to play in the inaugural season for the Ignite team in the G-League?
My decision on that was what team Ignite was, what they gave to us. They gave us schooling housing, a chance to play with NBA vets, and then NBA coaches. So that’s basically what college does, but G-League Ignite was even better because the NBA vets and the NBA coaches has already coached and played.
You knew Jalen Green even before the G-League. What was your impression of Green playing against him and eventually being his teammate?
Me and Jalen were always cool. It’s just like the first day we seen each other, we just clicked right away. He’s humble. He’s always been humble his whole life and just playing against him in high school.
It was just cool because G-league Ignite, all of a sudden we were teammates, so it made it even funner. Or if that’s a word that made it even better, just playing with him. Just getting to know him personally and just being his brother.
Were you surprised when you weren’t drafted and was that even more motivation to show all the teams that passed on you that they made a huge mistake?
I was pretty surprised, but at the end of the day, I can’t get down on myself because it is it’s already over.
So the next day, I basically just got back into the gym the next morning, probably like at eight. I got right back into the gym and just got prepared for whatever’s next, which was Summer League.
The Vipers have won 10 out of 11 games and are the highest-scoring team in the league. What do you think is the biggest difference between the early part of the regular season where the team was 1-3 and now?
I don’t think there’s no difference. It’s just, we, the assignee players, like the two-way players, me and Trevelin Queen, we came back down, and I think that everything just clicked together because they were doing pretty good. Their first game, they beat Texas Legends and then next two games they lost.
But at the end of it, we’re doing better than we do since the beginning of the regular season.
Final question: What did you learn in your time with the Rockets?
Biggest lesson being with the Rockets, just be prepared, so no matter when your name is going to be called, you be cool.
It can be called early in the first quarter or late in the fourth quarter. Just always be prepared. A new opportunity is great. I get to live in Houston now, not on a two-way, so I’m not, I can be back and forth, but not as much. Next year is going to be a lot better because I’m going to be with the Rockets a lot.
And just being with the team, being with the coach and just learning everything they have to give to me.
G-League or NBA, you know Nix will be in the gym early in the morning working on his game. Its a matter of time before Nix is a permanent part of the Rockets’ rotation. It could happen this year or next, but whenever it happens Nix, will be ready to show the entire league that they made a huge mistake on draft night.