clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Should the Rockets worry about Amen Thompson’s competition?

Is Amen Thompson elite? Will he have to work overtime to get there?

Basketball: Overtime Elite-Cold Hearts at City Reapers
Is Amen Thompson built for the NBA?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re reading this, you follow basketball. Do you play it?

I do - very casually. Let me give you a quick scouting report.

James Piercey, Guard/Forward, D5 Pizza Boys.

6’0”, 185 pounds

Strengths: Standstill midrange jumper, connective passing, help defense

Weaknesses: Running, jumping, dribbling, being good at basketball.

I play on a team called the Pizza Boys. Funny story: we almost got a sponsorship from a local pizza company, didn’t, and kept the name anyway.

In our inaugural season, we were the best team in the division. Our roster has an odd construction: we’ve got four guys who are much too good for our division. They’ve played higher-level basketball, and we’re just getting old. Everyone else plays a role.

Something strange happened in year two: something... horrible. All the other bad teams quit. Teams from higher divisions got bumped down. Suddenly, we were struggling. The role players were struggling, and the good players were struggling as a result.

See how that works?

Did OTE hold Amen Thompson back?

There is endless discussion about the Thompson Twins and the Overtime Elite. Almost all of it is meant to reflect negatively on the twins. How can we scout these guys when they’ve been playing against high schoolers?

This piece won’t argue that this is an invalid concern. It isn't. It’s a valid concern. With that said, it’s not the end point of the analysis here. Amen didn’t strictly play against the weaker competition - he played with weaker teammates.

Please forgive my amateurish editing here. Also, shoutout to Brad, who I am only assuming won’t mind if I aggregate his content here.

Check out this clip. Amen is running a pretty standard pick-and-roll. His roll man does what he’s supposed to do - he rolls. Why does his teammate in the corner cut? Now, the CIty Reapers have three guys in the dunker’s spot.

I’ll tell you why he cuts - odds are, he’s not a confident shooter. I won’t claim to know the City Reapers inside and out. I can tell you that this team shot 31.9 percent on 24 three-point attempts per game this season.

Are we sure Amen was supposed to dominate the competition?

Amen Thompson needs NBA spacing

First, let it be said that Thompson was fairly dominant throughout the OTE playoffs.

How about 17.2 points, 9.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds per game? If you wanted more, you don’t understand Thompson’s game. This is a pass-first player.

Still, the broader point is that in the NBA, most wings aren’t cutting to the interior with two men already occupying that zone. They’re camping out for a corner three - and Thompson is finding them.

Obviously, we can’t base the City Reapers’ offensive structure on one clip. That’s not the intention here. Watch some film - this is a recurring theme. The Reapers often left Thompson with only a shooter or two to drive and kick out to. The stats back it up - 24 attempts per game, 31.9 percent.

His star teammate was his twin brother - another poor shooter. The bottom line is that we should not be making definitive conclusions about Thompson based on his experience in the OTE - in either direction.

The Rockets need to put the right team around Thompson

Let’s take a macro view here.

Basketball is a team sport. Often, scouting focuses on individuals. How many among us don’t follow non-NBA basketball, but specifically follow the prospects who will eventually be in the NBA?

There’s so much focus on Amen’s competition. Subconsciously, I think we think of The City Reapers as The Thompson Twins. It’s funny - this is completely antithetical to Thompson’s own view of basketball.

Listen to this kid talk. He’s excited to play with Alperen Sengun because it’s easy for a good passing big to find cutters from the high post. The NBA is trending towards multiple playmakers, and he thinks the Rockets have them. This kid is all about the team.

So it’s now incumbent on the Rockets to put the right team around him. The priority this summer should be shooting. Yes, the Rockets need to improve their defense, but for this offense to be functional, it needs shooting on the margins. From there, the hope is that Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. can improve their efficiency with the presence of another playmaker.

If those things happen, I suspect Thompson will ease a lot of concerns about his game in 2023-24.

He just can’t do it alone.