clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Five Out Returns - February 2023

Someone Else’s Problem.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets
One staying, one leaving?
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to Five Out. I hope you missed it when it didn’t appear last week. Other commitments made it impossible to get to on Thursday, and by the time I could write it, well, here we are.

Run to the corner, or don’t, I’m not the boss of you. You’re a high pick in life, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, even if it’s kind part of playing the game as a pro.

The Future Rockets Already Here - Please Act Accordingly

Things are technically, and actually, dismal in Rocketsworld. When the Rockets did manage a couple of wins under circumstances that maybe go best without saying (ahem - No Silas, or no Green), they didn’t beat the giants of the NBA, but rather the Pistons, and Thunder.

Last night they were savaged by those same Thunder. The Rockets seem locked in to finish in the bottom three, to likely keep their pick, rather than rendering it to OKC. Hooray. And so what?

How many more games like last night’s loss can the Rockets stand, as a team that would like to be good one day? Last night was an utter dismantling, and worse, a capitulation from the players, against a team just as inexperienced as the Rockets overall.

Let me say that again - the Thunder, aside from 24 year old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, are roughly as inexperienced as the Rockets, and also without their #2 pick. The presence of Tate and Gordon probably wouldn’t have changed things much.

I’d contend that whatever happens in this draft, unless it’s Mr. 14%, Victor Wenbanyama, the Rockets future team is basically already on the roster. In any case, they’re pretty much at, or over, their capacity to develop talent, if this season’s evidence is worth anything.

If that’s true, then the young Rockets need someone who can reach them, and teach them, and it’s fairly evidently not Stephen Silas.

I have all the sympathy in the world for his loss, and the way circumstances changed on him after his hire. But he hasn’t changed with the circumstances, and at this point, I lack faith in his ability to do so.

I wish him the best, honestly, but it’s time for sayanora. The worst record for three seasons, and visible decline in the play of key Rockets like Green, but basically a whole team, that is now markedly worse at shooting than they were as prospects, are all the evidence we need.

It’s time to leave game theory behind, and focus on real basketball, Mr. Stone. If you don’t know how to do it, find someone who does. That’s your job, not just collecting shiny bits that get tarnished and devalued once they actually play for the Rockets.

It’s time for Stephen Silas to be someone else’s problem, not the Rockets.

Big Future

Aside from Victor “14%” Wembanyama joining the Rockets, the future starting front court is already here.

Alperen Sengun is showing just how great he can become, at 20. If he adds a quicker and more reliable 3pt shot, he’s going to have a real shot being special. His defense is better than the general scuttlebutt seems to think. It’s not really his fault if he’s reacting to guards getting a free run at the rim. There are centers who can remedy that, but only one of those centers has an offensive game to match - Joel Embiid. The rest are largely specialists on one end of the court or the other.

Sengun’s mobility is good, and his reading of the game is lightning fast. This makes him a good prospect to be a switching, not a drop coverage, center. This is happening a little bit more, but not enough.

Jabari Smith mostly needs to get stronger, and to stop overthinking everything. Cerebral players often end up doing very well, but the beginning is awkward. A year ago he was facing NCAA level talent. The year before that, high school. He’s adjust fine, and seems, maybe, to be realizing he can just shoot the ball over nearly anyone. Most NBA players are great not from a huge variety of offensive moves, but from a couple literally no one on earth can consistently stop. Jabari has that, but he’s a 19 year old man, trying to expand his parameters. This is normal. I remain unworried.

That’s your front court. The Rockets need a backup center for “elk fights” with the biggest NBA stars. They already have two small ball centers in Tari Eason and Jae’Sean Tate.

Garuba is a useful player, at what position is unclear, but he’s useful in the right circumstances. Fernando is, surprise, a third center, just like everyone else thought he was.

Winging It

The Rockets are awash in wing talent, needing development. I’ll keep screeding that KJ Martin Jr at 23 is about as good as Mikal Bridges at 26, until the Rockets read what I’ve written. He’s not the same player, but his defense is much improved, and his offense is hard to stop. Shooting percentage looks great when you yam everything, on anyone. He’s an NBA starting small forward, or at least wing. Stop overthinking it, Rockets, and play him starters minutes there. The presence or absence of Eric Gordon does affect the win total, but I’m beginning to believe that’s because he learned to play basketball with other coaches.

Tari Eason is an incomplete player, but what he DOES have is rare, and astounding. He has a Kawhi Leonard-like ability to simply take the ball from nearby offensive players. He’s got excellent defensive awareness, especially as an on ball defender, and a ball hawk. He’s big, strong and fast, and has a decent handle. But what really sets him apart is his relentless motor.

There aren’t many players with those characteristics. If Kawhi Leonard can learn to shoot and finish reliably from where he started when San Antonio drafted him, Tari Eason almost certainly can, too. I think he’ll make his layups reliably sometime in the fairly near future.

Jae’Sean Tate brings a similar game to Eason, with a better inside game, with less height, but somehow, more force. However, we’ve seen that having Martin, Eason and Tate around changes games. He’s a distributor in a pinch, and can switch onto anyone, like the rest of the Rockets.

Guards, Guards!

I’ll say this again. KPJ isn’t your problem. His role, and the offense, are. Sticking a player who isn’t Luka or Harden in the “Dribble, Read, Dribble, and Dribble, and Manipulate The Defense” role is simply a fool’s errand. Porter is a good young shooting guard, with a high level 3pt shooting and distribution game. I don’t think he should be faulted for failing to be something he’s not. Especially when basically no one else in the world is the thing you want him to be. Let him do what he’s good at doing. Who really gives a crap about “The System”? The system currently in place is a dismal failure, for two and a half seasons. M

Maybe James Harden didn’t leave entirely because the roster wasn’t what he liked? Maybe “the system” was a problem? He’s playing at an all-star level in Philadelphia, even withhis ability to attack the basket gone.

Anyhow, Porter has answered the personal questions about himself pretty well, showing that he’s growing up. To me, until there’s some sort of serious recent incident, it’s simply old news, and irrelevant.

As a shooting guard, he’s a great passer. I think if you put him in an offense that attacked quickly, within seven seconds, say, his entire game would look a lot better.

Josh Christopher is a matchup nightmare for nearly any team. He’s too fast for bigger players, and too big for most faster players. Surely, somehow, the Rockets can use this mismatch? Yes, he makes bad decisions. Will he make better ones on the bench watching Garrison Matthews heave literally the worst shots I’ve ever seen an NBA player attempt? (Yes, worse than a Green heat check, because when he’s on, those go in.)

TyTy Washington can actually play point guard. Maybe his future is to be an elite 2nd point like Tyus Jones. That’s a great player to have. Unlike Daishen Nix, who is not a great player to have, and basically gives you nothing.

Neither Matthews nor Nix should play a single minute ahead of Washington and Christopher. Stop being ridiculous about fringe, at best, NBA players who don’t actually do anything worthwhile.

Jalen Green needs to sit down every time he dogs it on defense. Every. Time. These habits are going to turn him into Shooting Guard Marvin Bagley III - another #2 pick. If he turns petulant, well, maybe that’s not a player you want to award a max deal in the future.

The same goes for every player on the Rockets. No exceptions for unearned status.

Somebody Else’s Problem

Today the Brooklyn Nets made Kyrie Irving someone else’s problem, specifically, the Dallas Mavericks. You really hate to see the living NBA poison and soap opera that is Kyrie join Luka Doncic and Christian Wood for some real defensive hi-jinks.

The players coming back to Brooklyn are fine. But maybe those Brooklyn picks and swaps are looking a lot better now.

So goes the latest NBA supergroup to implode.

But it probably only benefits the Rockets, and again, Kyrie is somebody else’s problem, and thankfully, not the Rockets.


Changes This Week?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Gordon Traded
    (35 votes)
  • 3%
    Silas Axed
    (5 votes)
  • 33%
    Gordon Traded, Silas Axed
    (43 votes)
  • 34%
    Neither, nothing, nada.
    (44 votes)
127 votes total Vote Now