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How should the Rockets incorporate Amen Thompson back into the rotation?

Adding a new variable into a winning formula can make for a tough decision.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Friday’s game versus the Los Angeles Clippers marked the sixth straight game that Amen Thompson has missed since spraining his ankle on November 1. Although the Houston Rockets have yet to set a return date, recent images and video of him on the practice court signal that he is nearing a return.

Inserting the fourth overall pick back into the fold sounds like an easy decision on paper, but considering how well the team has jelled over the course of their recent winning streak, the “how” in “how to incorporate Thompson back into the rotation” becomes a bit more complicated.

There are two main responsibilities that must be weighed here for the Rockets:

  1. Ensuring that Thompson’s development isn’t disrupted as he is a major asset going forward.
  2. Furthering the team’s newfound success, as it would be a shame to mess too much with the chemistry.

I’m of the mindset that there’s a healthy balance between the two and that they are not mutually exclusive. Yes, Thompson will be playing catch up, but he doesn’t figure to be one of those guys that will tank the whole operation as he tries to find himself as a young player in the NBA. Nothing about his playing style or demeanor suggests that it could become an issue.

The most obvious route of action would be for Amen to slide back into the second unit, most likely meaning less-to-no Aaron Holiday. While Holiday has played well when called upon, we all understand the pecking order.

What I’m most interested in seeing is how short of a leash Ime Udoka will have should Thompson struggle. We’ve already seen him be more than willing to pull the other lottery picks in high-leverage situations if things aren’t going ideal. On the bright side, those have been teachable moments, and players such as Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. have responded positively towards those moments.

It’s also not like Amen was playing a heap of minutes before he got hurt. He ranged between 13 and 21 minutes in the four games he played this season. I just wonder if Udoka would opt to go back to Holiday in the second half of a game in the instance that Thompson’s first half goes awry.

We won’t really know the answer to that until he’s officially back. I also wouldn’t be surprised if a short stint in the G-League was in the mix, just so he can get back up to speed. It wouldn’t be the worst idea considering how the organization has been able to get Cam Whitmore some valuable playing time since his assignment.

Just to be clear, I still think you see if Amen can acclimate back to the NBA first and foremost. Just getting a glimpse of his twin, Ausar, and what he’s been able to do during his first month in the league has me awaiting in anticipation. It’s a vicarious experience.

It will be also be beneficial for Amen to return to a Rockets lineup that ranks in the upper half of the league in three-point percentage. Placing Thompson in lineups that space the floor around him would also probably make his transition back into the rotation less clunky. As obvious as that sounds, I know it’s not rocket science. Or is it...

See ya soon, Amen!