With the season just around the corner for the Houston Rockets, it’s time to find an ideal place for Jabari Smith, TyTy Washington, and Tari Eason on offense and defense. Each player is gifted with length and athleticism, as the Rockets need those talented attributes. These players can contribute on offense and defense. Putting Smith, Washington, and Eason in the right places are important to their success on the Rockets.
Smith and Eason can guard one through five throughout the game on defense. Stephen Silas mentioned he was already on his laptop figuring out the best spots for those two on defense. Watching clips on Eason and Smith on defense in college became interesting. They both can stay in front of their man on defense because of the lateral quickness each player has. Smith and Eason also have great IQs on defense.
Eason does an incredible job of having active hands in the passing lanes, including being a nuisance while playing on-ball defense. At LSU, Eason averaged 1.9 steals per game, which is as incredible as his defensive plus/minus (5.7) per basketball reference. Eason could be seen in multiple defensive assignments like a 2-3 zone, 1-3-1, and box-in-one. He has the athleticism to play whatever position on defense but would be better suited for the wing or on top of the defensive set. His skill set allows him to be lethal in all aspects on defense. Eason’s 7’2” wingspan has become effective for him.
Smith will be great at on-ball defense, which should be his biggest strength. Opposing players in college had a hard time driving by Smith. His wingspan is also 7’2” like Eason but Smith is still tallest amongst the two at 6’10”, and Smith’s father mentioned he isn’t done growing during his introductory press conference.
The only thing Smith needs to improve on is defending the rim, as he only averaged 1 block per game. At 6’10”, it shouldn’t be a problem for him. Silas will probably position Smith as a help-side defender on defensive sets. This could provide better chances for Smith to make a play on the ball.
On another note, Smith could still be effective on the defensive wings, as a defender rotating over to stop the pick-and-roll or to intercept the passing lanes. Either way, zone or man, Smith will create problems throughout the game. He averaged 2.1 steals per game per 100 possessions.
Although the Rockets passed over Nikola Jovic earlier, they saw something special in Washington. Washington was seen as a lottery pick in the early part of the colligate basketball season. As the season progressed, Washington started to fall for an odd reason, mainly injury concerns.
In a far opinion, he seems less aggressive on offense. He has the ballhandling skills to blow by and attack defenders on offense. Washington is versatile with the basketball and knows how to create opportunities for his teammates.
During the season, Washington averaged 12.5 points per game with shooting splits of 45.1/35.0/75.0 percent. He has intriguing accuracy from the midrange, which is 49.6 percent. Washington does a great job of creating space off-the-dribble and on step-backs to find his shot. He knows to take the correct shots, which could be midrange shots when given the opportunity.
The only concern is he can become hesitant on when to attack on offense? There was times John Calipari barked at Washington for being a bystander on the wing. Calipari wanted him to be the vocal point of the offense, as that meant taking most of the shots. His usage rate at Kentucky was a 22.5 percent, which is low for dynamic guard like himself. Thankfully, the Rockets’ G-League team will be resourceful, as he’ll build confidence with the Rio Grande Vipers. Plus, John Lucas will be in his corner along with Mahmoud Abdelfattah.
Washington will be great on the wing and in pick-in-roll. Hopefully, he becomes a good iso player too. He’ll have plenty of time to watch Kevin Porter Jr. and Daishen Nix facilitate the offense and learn when to score. Washington will eventually have an idea on how to run the point guard position in the NBA.
As I re-discuss Eason and Smith, their offensive skill set will be important for the Rockets. Silas can use their height to advantage inside or outside the paint, and both should be useful in pick-and-roll, pick-in-pop, and on transition too.
Also, Silas would love to use Eason and Smith in various horns sets on offense. Smith already knows he is good at spacing floor with his shooting. Last season in Auburn, Smith shot the three-ball at 42 percent, which makes him more deadly because he is versatile with the basketball. Smith averaged 16.9 points per game while shooting 42.9 percent from the field.
Smith can do more than catch-and-shoot, as he can put the ball ground for pull-ups or strong takes towards the rim. Silas will keep Smith out the paint because he is more effective outside of it. Hopefully, Smith becomes more dominant in the future by scoring with his back towards the basket. He’ll become stronger in future, so his skillset develops the right way.
Smith already knows Alperen Sengun is a good player and thinks their fit would be explosive. Smith said:
“I think that’ll be a great fit, with just me spacing the floor. I think it’ll be really hard to guard… We’ll give teams problems and it will be great to just build with him and the team.”
Watching the 4-5 pick-and-roll between Sengun and Smith will be interesting, as that catches opposing teams off balance. The Rockets will have multiple big men that can shoot the ball from three.
Eason has active motor on offense and defense, as that caught Rafael Stone’s eye. Stone said:
“His motor is exceptional.”
Eason dives on the floor, fights for loose balls, makes open shots, and moves without the basketball. He isn’t afraid to drive by his defender for a dunk or layup towards the rim as well. Eason averaged 16.9 points per game with shooting splits of 52.1/35.9/80.3 percent from the field. He is a hardworking and team-first player meaning: he’ll set screens, charges, and guard the opposing team’s best player if needed too. Being a 6’9” wing in today’s NBA is a good thing for Eason because of his skillset.
Silas will have a plan in place so Washington, Smith, and Eason are successful on the Rockets. He wants to take full advantage of each player’s skillset.