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What we learned about the Rockets in NBA Summer League

The Rockets didn’t win it all, but it was a valuable experience.

NBA: NBA Draft
Do teams regret passing on Cam Whitmore yet?
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

“If you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Sorry for going edge lord on you. I’m feeling a little edgy. The NBA’s offseason is officially the offseason.

Summer League is over. What are we supposed to do now? Go outside basketball?

Sure - but I get tired quickly. Repetitive motion makes my sciatica act up. I need NBA basketball. Never mind load management, bring me a 164-game season.

Jokes. Anyway, Summer League is over. The Rockets lost in the Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was fun.

What did we learn?

Cam Whitmore was a steal

Forget what we learned. About 14 teams learned a hard lesson: don’t pass on talent.

Why did Whitmore slip again? He’s not the class clown? There are some medical concerns, sure. If you’d known Kawhi Leonard would be where he is now, you'd still select him with the sixth overall pick - in a heartbeat, actually.

Their loss. Our gain. Whitmore was the Summer League MVP. This is clearly a player with star potential, and the Rockets got him with the 20th pick.

He’s not perfect. Most of the predraft concerns with Whitmore were validated in Summer League. He’s actually a more willing passer than anticipated. Right now, his worst habit is dribbling out of open catch-and-shoot opportunities to try to create his own basket. It’s Carmelo Anthony Syndrome. If you’re open, swallow your pride, launch a triple, and let your teammate collect an assist.

That’ll either come in time, or it won’t. Still, Whitmore flashed some remarkable shot creation. He’s an aggressive defensive playmaker (although he got caught ball-watching off-ball a little too often).

He was a steal.

Amen Thompson can be elite

Can we put the Overtime Elite stuff to rest now? Please.

Am I overreacting to one Summer League game? I don’t think so. If the concerns about Thompson were valid, one game would have been enough to prove them so.

Wouldn’t it? This was the pitch: Overtime Elite is not a real league. The competition level is low. As a result, the Thompson twins will be woefully behind the developmental curve compared to their peers.

Right. If that was true, Thompson couldn’t possibly shine in a game where the opposing team featured Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe, could he?

That’s not to say that Thompson is earmarked for stardom. That would be an overreaction. Still, if OTE was a mirage, and the Thompsons weren’t built for NBA basketball, it would be impossible for Thompson to have a good game.

Thompson didn’t just prove that he can play with his contemporaries - he proved that he can outplay them. Still, if you’re stuck on the one-game sample size, just look at his brother. Ausar Thompson was consistently brilliant throughout Summer League.

The Thompsons faced stiffer competition, and they thrived in it. If your pet anti-Thompson argument is “But OTE!”, get a new one.

Matthew Mayer may be a guy

One of the cooler aspects of Summer League is the opportunity to watch some fringe NBA talent.

I’ll admit it - I was Whitmore watching too often throughout Summer League. Still, one other player really caught my attention. It was Matthew Mayer.

The basic counting stats are impressive enough. Mayer averaged 12.5 points per game on 43.5 percent shooting from three-point range. He also pulled down 7.3 rebounds a night and managed 0.8 blocks and 0.8 steals per contest.

What I liked was his skillset. Mayer plays extremely hard. He’s got a nose for the ball, and he’s willing to dive for it. He’s also got a cannon of a three-point shot at 6’9”.

He wasn't the only impressive fringe NBA talent on the Rockets in Summer League. Trevor Hudgins is very talented. I struggle to buy him being 6’0”, and I’m not sure if he’s good enough to make up for his size deficit, but the guy can hoop.

Nathienal Hinton plays his tail off. Still, he’s a 6’5” wing with a sub-elite three-point shot. In the spirit of objectivity, I’m not comfortable advocating for a two-way contract for either of these guys.

Give Mayer one. Today. He may not play a minute of NBA basketball this season, and that doesn’t matter. A tall shooter who makes hustle plays has a role in the NBA.

Now, to spend the next three months picturing it.