Discussions about point guards tend to get a little contentious with Rockets fans. That’s inevitable. The guy we’ve got starting at the position may or may not be one.
Blissfully, this article isn’t about that. You may think Kevin Porter Jr. is destined for multiple All-Star appearances, and you may think there’s a chance he’ll be out of the league after next season.
(Sorry. I couldn’t help myself).
In any event, Porter Jr. is an enigma. He just isn’t one I’m looking to unpack here. Whether he’s a point guard or not, he’ll need a backup next season.
Head Coach Stephen Silas has two viable options in Daishen Nix and TyTy Washington. Which one should be the primary backup next season?
The Case For Daishen Nix
Here’s something nobody is likely to dispute: Daishen Nix is a point guard.
In fact, he’s something of a throwback. Nix is the rare modern NBA player with a passer’s mentality, and to be sure, he sees the floor like a wise man sees the forest for its trees.
Rockets force the turnover then Daishen Nix drops it back to Jabari Smith for the slam pic.twitter.com/vkZPyXrs0p— Jackson Gatlin (@JTGatlin) July 15, 2022
At least, that was my impression of Nix prior to this year’s Summer League. At times, Nix made Porter Jr. look like Andre Miller in Nevada.
All told, Nix was fourth in field goal attempts on the team for the tournament. More impressively, he shot 45 percent on 4 three-point attempts per contest. Yes, Summer League is a bad sample, in terms of size and quality.
Still, those gains were encouraging. After all, Nix shot 26.9 percent from long range in the 24 games he played with the Rockets last season. His three-point shooting in the G-League has been similarly inconsistent.
With that said, the case for Nix rests on meritocracy. That appears to be a policy the Rockets hold dearly. We watched Jalen Green camp in the corner waiting for the ball until he earned it. We watched Alperen Sengun struggle to earn minutes over Christian Wood despite flashing star potential in his rookie campaign.
Simply put, Nix outplayed Washington in Summer League. In fact, Washington shot a gruesome 37.5 percent from the field to Nix’s 45.3 percent.
Is there any world where the Rockets give Washington the backup nod from day one?
The Case For TyTy Washington
Really, the case for Washington is a case against Nix. After all, we haven’t seen Washington at the NBA level.
Based on his college production, he’s got the potential to look like an absolute steal at 29th. Washington is a shifty guard with a plus wingspan. He probes pick-and-rolls like a veteran.
TyTy Washington has such a good feel for the game.— Ersin Demir (@EDemirNBA) June 19, 2022
He'll be a great secondary playmaker on a team with his his creativity in the pick-and-roll.
Also one of the better mid-range scorers of this year's class. See a great fit for him in Milwaukee or Minnesota.
#20 on my board. pic.twitter.com/R1HPpCNSMI
Washington is able to make this read because the defense knows he’s a three-level scorer. The roll man’s assignment tries to trap Washington instead of tagging him because he knows Washington is a candidate to cook his man.
Which, he is. It just happens that he’s also capable of making a pinpoint lob pass. Washington has the makings of a strong pick-and-roll guard in the NBA because he’s got the necessary range of skills to keep defenses in a bind. In simple terms, he can shoot, dribble or pass.
He’s not a flawless player. Washington is lacking in burst, so he has trouble getting downhill. He’s great in pick-and-roll actions, but he may never be the isolation scorer that today’s best point guards often are.
Of course, you could levy the same criticism at Nix - and more harshly, at that. Nix is generally lacking in athletic gifts. Coupled with the fact that he’s not a credible floor-spacer, that means he struggles to create in the half-court in general.
In other words, Washington’s pick-and-roll acumen ought to provide more advantages in half-court scenarios than Nix is able to create. Is that enough to give him the nod?
Silas should prioritize Daishen Nix over TyTy Washington in the rotation to start the year, and it’s got nothing to do with a comparison of them as players.
Nix has earned the opportunity. That seems to matter to this Houston Rockets regime. Personally, I like the implications that policy has for culture building. With most rebuilding teams baptizing their young players by fire, I like that the Rockets appear to be zigging instead of zagging.
With that said, Washington is likely to be a higher potential player than Nix. I think the Rockets should make him earn his spot, but I don’t think they should place an undue burden on him to do so either.
In other words, don’t be surprised if Nix starts the season as Porter Jr.’s backup - but don’t be surprised if Washington has taken his spot by the season’s end, either.