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Grading the 2021-2022 Rockets - Part 1

Time to dole out the report cards.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, eight of the best 16 teams are duking it out for the opportunity to win a NBA Championship. The Houston Rockets, however, were not invited to participate in such affairs. They instead won the honors of being crowned the league’s worst team, donning a 20-62 record.

Rockets fans around the world are watching the NBA postseason manifesting the scene of “Spongebob Squarepants” episode where Squidward is looking outside his window from a dark depressing bedroom as Patrick Star and Spongebob frolic with the joy of attempting to catch jellyfish.

As disheartening as it sounds, it’s not a big deal. We all know there can only be one champion. The other 15 teams will all end up in the same position, the only difference is that they’ll be given a participation scratch off sticker in the form of narratives.

Despite the conflicted feelings of rebuilding, Rockets enthusiasts can honestly admit the end of the James Harden era is weirdly a breath of fresh air. No longer do you have to care about the stress of coming up short, nor do you have to deal with the anecdotes from the loud voices from the basketball world, instead fans get to join in and mock other teams instead.

In all seriousness, the fanbase knows that if you’re not ready to field a championship team, you have to build a team to do so, and that takes time. This past season wasn’t a winning one, but it still lays the foundation of what to expect in the future. With that being said, let’s look back at the performances of our favorite losers.

Before we get started, here’s the rules. Players will be evaluated by A-F grading scale, Also I will not be conducting assessment on every player on the roster. Nineteen players played for Houston this season. Lord knows you don’t want me to talk about every single player who suited up for this team. If I did, we’ll be here all day. In order to be fair, players must have played a minimum of 42 games for the Rockets. Let’s begin!

David Nwaba

There’s not much to say about ‘Uncle Dave’. The undrafted 29-year-old swingman has been nothing more than a veteran presence for this young Rockets team His contributions of 5 points, and 48 percent shooting from the field in 13 minutes a game displays this. It’s not really worth bringing up his lack of shooting from three point range (31 percent), but he did bring energy and hustle.

Grade: C-

Josh Christopher

Despite the fact Christopher logged 17 minutes a game, it sure didn’t feel that way. Josh was a young guy who couldn’t get consistent rotational minutes, until the end of the season when Houston benched the veterans.

Regardless of this, he made an impact whenever he was on the court. ‘Jaygup’ has had great games like the one against the Brooklyn Nets, where he went 7-7 from the field and finished with 18 points on his 20th birthday. Also, he can be a pest defensively, he has the second most deflections per a game (1.8) behind KPJ (2.1) on the Rockets.

Christopher does need to work on his three point shooting, as he shot just 30% from deep, and he needs a little more control in his game. Nonetheless, I think with offseason training and a more defined role in the rotation next season, he’ll improve.

Grade: C

Kenyon Martin Jr.

A few weeks ago, former All Star Kenyon Martin Sr. made comments about his son’s tenure in Houston. He expressed his desire for Martin Jr. to play in a winning situation, citing the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat as examples of winning cultures and youth development to match. Martin Sr. makes a good point, K.J. isn’t starter material for those particular teams quite yet. However, he’s made strides to show he may have a bigger role on this team.

He’s a good perimeter defender that makes his opponents shoot under 30 percent from both three-point range and beyond 15 feet. He’s really active as a defender and uses his athleticism to get miraculous defensive highlights, especially as a help defender. Paired with his improvement from three after the All Star Break, where he shot 42 percent from three-point range, he’s due for more minutes.

That being said, for him to get where he needs to become better he needs to be more consistent on offense and be able to move his feet quicker against guards.

Grade: B-

Alperen Sengun

Can I interest you in Segun Magic? It’s a phrase I say all the time to describe the 6’10” big man from Turkey. Sengun is a crafty player who can operate in a multitude of ways. He can post-up in the paint, he can put the ball on the floor, and when the defense overcommits, he’ll throw a nifty pass to the open man.

His skill set has earned the praise of devoted fans and has caused a stir online because of his lack of minutes. I don’t blame them. In the 13 games he started, he was pretty promising, averaging 12 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. That being said, there are questions if he can be a consistent rim protector. He’s shown strides on that end along with decent footwork aiding his defense on the perimeter. But is it enough to be the next Nikola Jokic (who Sengun tries to pattern his game after)? We’ll see.

Grade: B

Garrison Mathews

The phrase: ‘It was all good just a week ago’ is the best way to describe Garrison Matthews’ season. It wasn’t bad per-se. However, for the way it started, it definitely didn’t end the same.

The 6’5” guard came bursting onto the scene as a no-name player whose heroics allowed Houston to rebound from a 15-game losing streak to a seven-game winning streak. Thus, the legend of ’Garry Bird’ was born. It was in good taste too. Around that time, Mathews shot over 40 percent from three on six attempts per game.

But like Cinderella, the clock struck 12 midnight, and the carriage turned into a pumpkin. Post All Star break ’Garry Bird’ played like a mortal, putting up nasty shooting splits of 37/34/76. When you add the fact Matthews’ defense is suspect at best, it can be a rough sight to see. On the bright side, Garrison finished with 25 total charges drawn, which makes him tied for third in the NBA in that category. Good job, Garry Bird!

Grade: C

We’ll be back tomorrow with part two of the grades series and the meat of the Rockets lineup. Tell us in your comments what grade you’d give.