Even the most optimistic Houston Rockets fan and maybe even the Rockets front office would have never imagined before the draft that there was a chance they could come away with not only Amen Thompson but another possible top 10 prospect in Cam Whitmore, but that is precisely what happened on draft night.
All Whitmore has done since then is win the NBA Summer League MVP, have a strong training camp and had a promising preseason debut. The Rockets’ forward depth is probably the deepest of any position on the team. You have returning starter and former number three pick Jabari Smith at starting power forward, newly signed big money man and top-flight defender Dillon Brooks at the three, and Tari Eason, who was the big surprise from last year's draft, as the de facto sixth man after his second-team All-Rookie selection last season.
You also have Jae'Sean Tate, who played the most minutes of any player in his first two seasons before dealing with injuries last season. The Rockets also signed Reggie Bullock, who will instantly be one of Houston’s best shooters and part of the rotation.
Even with all the names I just mentioned, Whitmore still has a chance to crack the rotation earlier than many thought. The initial idea was that Whitmore would spend time down in the G-League with the Rockets affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, but with his strong play so far, he may force the Rockets’ hand.
I asked Coach Udoka if there is a possibility that Whitmore may make his way into the rotation sooner rather than later.
"He can play two through four pretty easily. You can plug him in a lot of places. Big body at the two and strong enough to guard the four"
I asked Coach Udoka about Cam Whitmore chances of cracking the rotation once the regular season starts— Lachard Binkley (@BinkleyHoops) October 11, 2023
“He can play 2-4 pretty easily” pic.twitter.com/oaXgMQ39F4
When a coach mentions how versatile you are, that is a good sign that they have envisioned you playing multiple positions. Coach Udoka mentioned him as being able to play two through four in the lineup, and the exciting part about that is the two position because that is an area the Rockets don't have depth at. Last night, the Rockets started the game staggering VanVleet and Green. When Green went to the bench, VanVleet slid over to the two, and Thompson came in as the point guard.
If Whitmore can show he can consistently hit the open shot, he may also find some minutes as the backup shooting guard. It won't be easy. As I mentioned, the Rockets have several forwards who will get minutes this season. There are, however, examples of other rookies who were able to change the coaching staff's minds during the off-season and preseason to get into the rotation.
Two years ago, it was a prevailing thought that Sengun would spend time in the G-League after he was drafted, but he dominated during Summer League, had a great training camp, and looked good in practices, so much so that the Rockets had no choice but to find minutes for him.
Tari Eason just last year was thought to be buried on the depth chart at forward behind KJ Martin Jr and Jae'Sean Tate, but and injury to Tate and Eason coming out of the gate as one of the best rookies in the league helped change the coaching staff's mind.
It is still a possibility that Coach Udoka decides to send Whitmore down so that he can get more playing time. With the Vipers, he will get a minimum of 30 minutes a game, but if Whitmore continues to play the way he has played so far, he may force the Rockets’ hand and follow the same path as Sengun and Eason.