The Hoops Hype website has spent the summer ranking the top 25 NBA players at every position, and three Rockets have made the list at their respective spots.
The highest ranked Rocket was Jalen Green, who came in at number 15 on the shooting guard list. He is ranked right behing Gary Trent Jr. and Klay Thomspon and just ahead of Anfernee Simmons and Lu Dort (who is ranked too high, in my opinion, despite being behind Green). It’s a pretty fair ranking for the moment (though I’d probably have Green over Trent) even though I do feel that Green is headed for a major breakout this season. Here’s what Hoops Hype had to say about JG:
The second overall pick in the 2021 draft, Jalen Green did not disappoint in his rookie season, averaging 17.3 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 42.6 percent from the floor.
Sure, he was a bit streaky, but it’s beyond promising that the G League Ignite product improved steadily as the season progressed, flashing his scoring from deep, the midrange and the basket area to go with his explosive athleticism.
From February through the end of the year, Green’s numbers saw a noteworthy uptick to 20.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists on, most importantly, tidy 47.4/39.3/75.5 shooting splits. That was a 32-game sample size, by the way, by no means a small number, and if the athletic Green is able to carry that over in 2022-23, he’ll outpace his place on this list with ease.
The next highest Houston player is Jabari Smith Jr. who appears at number 22 on the power forwards list. Smith appears right behind Wendall Carter and Cam Johnson, both of whom I would have him rated higher than. Aaron Gordon is at 19, and that’s probably where I’d stop on Smith... for now. Here’s the Hoops Hype breakdown:
The second Top 4 2022 NBA draftee in our ranking so far, Jabari Smith should thrive right away as a first-year player, but likely moreso on the defensive end than offensively.
That’s based on his play as a prospect and in the just-past Summer League, where the Auburn Tiger averaged 14.4 points on 37.7 percent shooting (and an ugly 25.9 percent mark from three) and merely 1.8 assists, but chipped in 9.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks, all noteworthy clips.
That indicates that Smith is ready to contribute at a solid level everywhere besides offensively as a rookie, though his shooting marks should improve considering his solid jump-shooting stroke and the more-open looks he’ll get playing off of Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green.
Still, Smith’s knocks as a prospect revolved around his playmaking (he gets tunnel vision and likes to attack one-on-one) and propensity for needing to take difficult shots to score at the college level, characteristics that will likely get exposed in his first season as a pro.
Regardless, Smith has special potential as a point-stopper, both individually and as a help defender, thanks to his quick feet, intensity, length and instincts, and that should allow him to thrive on the less glamorous end of the floor right away.
And finally, the last Rocket on the lists is Alperen Sengun, who made the top 25 group of centers, coming in at number 23. Sengun is ranked lower than Kevon Looney (really, Hoops Hype?), Kevin Love, Ivica Zubac, and Mitchell Robinson, and with the young big man from Turkey slated to be the full-time starting five in H-town, it’s only a matter of time before he leaps up this list. Here is what Hoops Hype had to say about Alpie:
Already a fan favorite among hardcore Houston Rockets fans, Alperen Sengun boasts a highly unique level of skill that helps him overcome the fact he’s lacking in the athleticism department for a modern center.
As a rookie, Sengun averaged 9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists to go with 0.8 steals and 0.9 blocks in just 20.7 minutes of nightly action. Sengun may not be much of an outside shooter yet (24.8 percent from three in his first season), but he’s a chore to defend in the post thanks to his abundance of crafty moves down low. He’s also got special passing potential, as Sengun tossed out some dimes last season that were reminiscent of the player coming up at No. 1 on this very list.
Adding to the excitement for Rockets fans this offseason has been Sengun’s play for his native Turkey in FIBA competition, where he’s been able to be a more focal point on offense than he was as a rookie in Houston.
Thus far, the results have been exciting.
His 6-foot-9 body and ground-bound style of play might hinder him from ever becoming a superstar in the NBA, but there’s no doubt Sengun has a pretty impressive ceiling as a scoring, playmaking big man, the likes of some other European transplant centers in the modern Association.
The biggest omission from the list as far as Rockets fans are concerned was Kevin Porter Jr. He finished with a line of 15.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 6.2 assists last season and will be given every opportunity to improve on those numbers this year as the Rockets continue to grow and develop.
Kyle Lowry and Josh Giddey were ranked 25 and 24 respectively, and I’d rather have Porter than Lowry at this point for sure, and I don’t have as much faith in Giddey like the Thunder do, so I’d probably have Porter over him at this point as well. Giddey’s poor shooting and negative athleticism are going to hold him back from taking the next step, in my opinion.
In addition, Russell Westbrook is sitting at number 22, and the guy’s been a team killer in several different places so far, and at this point in their careers, I’d take KPJ over Russ any day of the week and twice on Sunday, as the saying goes. Porter would probably sneak in at 24 or 23 on my personal list.
So that’s it for the Hoops Hype list. Give us your thoughts on the rankings in the comments below!