It would be difficult to give Usman Garuba a letter grade on his 2021-22 season. Unless you were allowed to give out “incompletes”. In that case, you’d definitely give Garuba an “incomplete”.
Garuba was limited to 24 appearances this year, and he played a modest 10 minutes per game across them. It simply wasn't enough time to evaluate a rookie. Still, he gave Houston Rockets fans reasons for optimism in the time he was able to get on the court.
He was especially impactful down the stretch run. When the organization decided to sit some key players as the season reached its conclusion (most notably for Garuba’s sake, Christian Wood), Garuba got a more substantial opportunity. He made the most of it.
The numbers won’t leap off the page. Over his last five games, Garuba averaged 2.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 0.8 blocks. Now, consider that those numbers came in 17.1 minutes per game. Suddenly, they look a little more impressive.
We knew Garuba wasn’t going to be a big-time scorer. That was never his profile heading into the 2021 Draft. Defense is his calling card, and it’s obvious he’s got some chops. Garuba looked the part of a switchable wing/big. He’s able to provide assistance at the rim and on the perimeter. Even when he gets beat, he’s demonstrated a knack for recovering to contest layups his assignment had thought were open.
Offensively, Garuba showed some touch as a passer. He’s not slinging flashy dimes, but he’s a quick decision-maker with solid instincts. He also proved to be one of the Rockets’ best screen setters. That is, admittedly, a low bar. Still, it’s great that Garuba is able to find ways to contribute on offense without scoring.
All of which contributed to Garuba’s team-leading +33 plus/minus. That is not a typo.
Obviously, there’s noise in that statistic. Every caveat about small sample sizes applies. Still, it surely means something.
It means Garuba made an impact when he had the chance to.
Hopefully, those chances come more regularly in the 2021-22 season.