Why can’t we have nice things?
The Houston Rockets finally won a game. It wasn’t pretty. The Rockets nearly collapsed against the LiAngelo Ball-led Charlotte Hornets on several occasions. We’ll take it. A win is a win. You’ve got to beat the bad teams before you beat the good ones.
Amen Thompson is hurt. He’s got a Grade Two ankle sprain, which, according to Dr. Google, MD. means four-to-six weeks on the shelf. This is the second time that Thompson’s ankles have failed him, although it’s not the same ankle that he injured in summer league.
Hopefully, that’s just a coincidence. Let’s forget about the long-term concerns. How will the Rockets replace Thompson right now?
Do the Rockets need to replace Thompson?
Let’s be clear about one thing. In terms of immediate win/loss consequences, this isn’t a huge loss. Thompson is averaging 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 16.8 minutes per game. His Box Plus/Minus iBPM) is -6.9. This is not an insurmountable loss.
In terms of the eye test, Thompson has definitely flashed his limitless upside. At times, he’s looked like Houston’s best transition player and defensive playmaker. He’s thrown some “excuse me?” passes. Nobody should be questioning Thompson’s long-term projection based on his limited production thus far. It’s just worth saying that, at this moment, the Rockets aren’t exactly losing a key piece of their rotation.
On the other hand, this rotation is more shallow than Andrew Tate after (another?) lobotomy. A large part of the problem here is simply that the Rockets are losing a warm body that they can’t spare. Who’s going to cover Thompson’s minutes?
Rockets take a Holiday
It seems as if Coach Udoka has already tipped his hand. Aaron Holiday will be Fred VanVleet’s backup until Amen returns.
That’s perfect. Holiday is underrated. He’s a knockdown shooter who plays hard. Frankly, it wouldn’t be a shock if he earned a permanent place in the rotation. When Thompson returns, he may end up usurping Jae’Sean Tate. This team needs shooting in a major way.
Yet, the bench needs creation in a broader sense. Holiday is a decent complimentary reserve, but he doesn’t create from-scratch offense. Thompson, at least in theory, can. How will the Rockets replace him in that sense?
Is it Whitmore time for the Rockets?
Free Cam Whitmore. It is time. Realisitcally, it was probably already time.
It won’t always be pretty. Whitmore has not looked like a player who's going to exist within a team concept. When he touches the ball, he’s thinking “score” - first, second, third and fourth.
Sure. Isn’t it possible that Whitmore can provide more consistent offense than...well, nobody? Because that’s who the second unit has been running through - nobody at all. Thompson’s six points and assist and a half per do not reflect a player who is running a second unit.
Let Whitmore loose. If it’s horrible, send him to Rio Grande. It’s worth a shot. This second unit badly needs some half-court juice. If Thompson’s injury opens a runway for Whitmore, there’s at least a silver lining in his injury.
We may get something nice after all.