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First quarter grades for the 2023 Rockets (A-M)

Remember, We’re On The Quarter System

NBA: Houston Rockets-Media Day
First Quarter Grades Are In
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

We are roughly 25 percent of the way through the 2023-24 NBA Season. I’ve decided the team is graded on the quarter system, not semester. We are, after all, obsessives here, and the more granular we can make our analysis, the better, even when it’s not better.

This is almost entirely subjective, without much recourse to stats or advanced analysis. If you tell me that Tari Eason is the league Real +/- leader in the first three minutes of the second quarter, super. Or that Jalen Green is single-handedly behind the War on Christmas, ok, sure. This is more like a scouting report, combined with a report card. You can at least be sure that I’ve watched every minute the Rockets have played this season.

Without further ado let’s get to the first quarter grades, but remember, there are three more quarters in the regular season, and that means there’s a big opportunity to get better, or, some of you out there, get worse. Grades are based on performance in role, especially versus initial expectations. INC grades are for if I don’t think I’ve seen enough

Brooks, Dillon

Strengths: Defense, 3pt shooting, attitude, effort. 52nd in NBA FG% at 48.5, which doesn’t sound amazing, but if you knew Dillon before, this is fantastic. No vests.

Weaknesses: Foul trouble, ref bias, minor impulse control issues.

Comments: A real revelation, from our perspective a fantastic teammate and culture setter. None of the strange attitudes from Memphis seem to have carried over. Ferocious competitor inspiring younger teammates to play harder.

Grade: A


Bullock, Reggie

Strengths: Has been available.

Weaknesses: Shooting specialist who isn’t making shots. Seems lost defensively.

Comments: Known for shooting better after Christmas. Let’s hope so. Value signing not providing much value at the moment. Not many minutes played, not much reason to offer more minutes.

Grade: INC/D


Eason, Tari

Strengths: Rebounding, defense, effort, steals, fast break, Per36 star, slightly improved 3pt shooting at 35%.

Weaknesses: Early injury set rotations without him, but that is changing. Still has trouble with bunny shots at the rim, but better on the break.

Comments: Needs more minutes, needs to play in a theoretical “shutdown” lineup. An absolute menace on defense. Udoka needs to run some, any, offense for him - scoring 13pts Per36 as a pure garbage man scorer. Needs a bigger role.

Grade: B+


Green, Jalen

Strengths: High burst scoring output. Rebounding. Defensive effort. Improving recognition of his strengths on offense, which are many. Passing has been good as initiator when asked, but Rockets need his offense more.

Weaknesses: Inconsistent offense. General lack of floater, running hook, scoop, push shot, stop and pop, literally anything to prevent defenses always meeting him at the rim. Bad nights are really bad. Still getting outmuscled by some players, but less than before. Wandering attention causes turnovers.

Comments: Lately the bad games seem to have been fewer compared to the good ones. Is now always providing effort on both ends of the court. I think Jalen is more or less starting over on his path to being a dominant scorer, the good news being, he’s still 21.

Jalen doesn’t get enough foul calls given how often he’s fouled on drives. He needs to work on showing how often he’s fouled, which is often maybe not visible because he starts his shot motion very late and close to the basket. This was something I noticed not only with Jalen, but also Josh Christopher, and KPJ. Is it being taught in youth basketball, where it probably helps superior athletes overcome lesser but often more physical athletes, by giving them a very small window to make a decision on the basket attack? In any event, it’s A Very Bad Plan in the NBA, where there are almost no weak athletes, but much better referees. (No, really.)

Ime Udoka seems less concerned about the offense than I am. I don’t believe teams can just defend their way to victory, and for the Rockets offense to work, Green must be good.

Grade: B


Green, Jeff

Strengths: Versatile, useful, wily veteran, great at calling out Denver plays, which is handy as the Rockets have played Denver in 21% of all games played. Good all around offense, and will pretend to be a center. Still has surprising burst and hops.

Weaknesses: Isn’t really a center. Is 37.

Comments: Thank goodness the Rockets have Jeff Green, as their presumed backup center Jock Landale has been essentially unplayable thus far. Relying on Jeff Green to be your backup center isn’t really a long term plan, and it reduces his versatility.

Grade: B+


Hinton, Nate

Strengths: Rugged do-a-little-of-everything and staunch defender in the Kelvin Sampson U of H mold. Can score at the basket, pass, has shot the 3 well in the past. Active.

Weaknesses: Towel waving could improve?

Comments: A solid back up combo guard type at RGV, whose shooting splits are all over the place in three seasons. Always bring toughness and effort.

Grade: INC/B


Holiday, Aaron

Strengths: Backup PG play. 3pt shooting marvel right now. Good defender. Low turnover PG.

Weaknesses: Weak start to the season?

Comments: Incredible shooting from 3pt range at present at 46%. Currently presenting as an ideal backup PG, and sometimes now in closing lineups with Fred VanVleet if opponent is playing small, or the Rockets need shooting (which the pretty much always do). Overcame bad preseason to become basically the ideal backup PG.

Grade: A+


Landale, Jock

Strengths: Nowhere to go but up? Previous two seasons suggest a much better player. Rebounding rates still decent.

Weaknesses: Slow speed, slow reactions. Bad hands. Seems lost defensively, and close in scoring at former good percentage has completely collapsed thus far. Not even trade bait at present.

Comments: Started the season injured, and not available for much practice. Maybe has lingering ankle and concussion injury effects? Surely he’s better than this? Landale being a garbage time player blunts Jeff Green’s versatility. Like Sampson, lost his power when he cut his Perfect Aussie Mullet.

Grade: INC/D


Marjanovic, Boban

Strengths: Is Boban. Some surprisingly solid minutes as an actual big when called upon.

Weaknesses: Not really suited to the modern NBA game.

Comments: Boban is best way to waste a roster spot, as he seems to be a genuinely great guy. A crowd pleaser when he plays. Not really a stiff, but more a man out of time, might have been a rotational player mid 1990s to early 2000s.

Grade: B for Boban


Poll

Agree?

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  • 31%
    Completely!
    (42 votes)
  • 53%
    Mostly
    (71 votes)
  • 3%
    Kind of
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    Mostly No
    (2 votes)
  • 10%
    Nothing Without Luka Can Ever Be Right
    (14 votes)
133 votes total Vote Now