The Houston Rockets were near the bottom of the rankings in many categories. From points per game to three-point percentage, the Rockets struggled to say the least. Another one of those categories was bench play. The Rockets, at times, would stay close for parts of the first quarter only to see the second unit come in, and the game would start to slip away slowly.
Surprisingly, the Rockets were top five points per game off the bench in the 2021-22 season. Of course, that had a lot to do with rookie at the time Alperen Sengun. who, to many Rockets fans' ire, was playing his minutes off the bench. That changed last season when Sengun was moved to the starting lineup (eventually). The Rockets’ main players off the bench last season were Tari Eason and KJ Martin (before the Eric Gordon trade). A minor role for Jae'Sean Tate due to injury, less playing time for Josh Christopher, Ty Ty Washington, and a Boban, Usman Garuba rotation.
Last season the Rockets bench was 22nd in points per game, 29th in three-point percentage, and 27th in plus/minus. Sometimes people dont think about the impact a low-scoring, bad-shooting bench can have on a team's overall success, but it can be the difference between being a bottom-feeding team and a team on the rise.
Well, that should change for the 2023-24 season. With the addition of Fred VanVleet, that means that, in all likelihood, Kevin Porter Jr. is heading to the bench. Yes, there have been rumblings that Porter Jr. could move to small forward, but with the signing of Dillon Brooks, that seems like it won't be happening.
Adding Porter Jr. to the bench unit will give the Rockets instant offense, playmaking and an excellent three-point shooter for the second unit. Porter is projected to be the Rockets’ sixth man and a possible Sixth Man of The Year candidate. Also, with the addition of VanVleet, the team's overall fourth pick, Amen Thompson, will join the bench squad.
Yes, Thompson hasn't played one regular season game, but even in just one Summer League game, Thompson flashed the potential that made him the fourth overall pick. Playmaking and athleticism will give the Rockets a dynamic off the bench they have not had in the last three seasons. Tari Eason was a bench player for most of last season, but with a great rookie year and continued top-notch play in the Summer League, Eason is on his way to a massive jump in production for his second season coming off the bench.
The Rockets added other players with minor roles but could still make a huge impactformer Phoenix Suns, including bcenter Jock Landale, former Rockets and 2023 NBA champion Jeff Green and backup point guard Aaron Holiday.
Even in a minor role, Holiday will be one of the Rockets’ best shooters and could provide much-needed shooting off the bench. The wild card of the entire bench unit is Tate. Two years ago, Tate was a starter for the Rockets and one of the most consistent players on the team. Last season, Tate dealt with injuries and only played in 31 games in 2022-23 after playing in 70 and 78 games in his first two seasons.
He started in 58 games in 2020-2021 and 77 in 2021-22. Last season, he only started in seven games. With KJ Martin traded to the Clippers, Tate will still be on next season's team. It won't be as a starter, so that is another viable option the Rockets will have off the bench. How much playing time will Tate have? No one knows right now, as Ime Udooka will make that decision during training camp and preseason.
Whatever Tate's role ends up being, the Rockets will have many more options and talent coming off the bench. Porter Jr can be used as a secondary playmaker and an off-ball shooter. Thompson will be used as a primary ball handler and the player to push the pace coming off the bench. The Rockets’ three-point shooting and overall scoring should improve along with the Rockets overall win/loss record.