What should the Philadelphia 76ers expect from Amen Thompson in his rookie season?
...I’m so sorry.
Jokes aside, we’re all excited for Thompson’s rookie season. Still, this isn't like rookie seasons of the recent past. We already know that the Rockets won’t be starting Thompson this year. They just gave a player at his position over $40 million a season to play basketball. The Rockets will want their money’s worth. Thompson won’t just be a reserve: there’s a world where he doesn't see the floor for 20 minutes per game next season.
What should the Rockets expect from him when he is on the floor?
What will Thompson’s statistical profile look like for the Rockets?
Forget about Thompson’s basic counting stats. They won’t be impressive. It would be a surprise if he averaged 10 points per game.
What we should be looking at is his per possession stats. For some reason, per-36 has been widely dismissed in favor of per-75...or per-100? I can’t remember which, and I can’t remember why. Either way, calculating per-36 is easy, so let’s stick with per-36.
I’m predicting roughly 9 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds in 18 minutes per game. Per 36 minutes, that amounts to 18-8-6. The shooting splits will probably be ugly. Let’s say 41/27/65.
Those are my statistical predictions. Are they arbitrary? A little bit, but there’s some reasoning behind them. Let’s dig into it.
What will Thompson’s on-court performance look like for the Rockets?
Nobody is expecting Thompson to rack up points per 36 (or 75, or 100), but in all likelihood, he’s not going to rack up lofty assist totals either. Why?
Well, Thompson doesn't strike me as a guy who wants to spearhead a heliocentric attack. Basic counting stats are a function of usage as much as they’re a function of ability. This kid is happy to get a hockey assist. He’s going to be the type of point guard who gets off the ball early merely because he recognizes that one of his teammates is due for an on-ball rep. He’s not likely to have any reservations about taking a possession off to function as a screen-setter and cutter - if there’s an opportunity to cut.
That’s all good stuff. It’s part of Thompson’s appeal. Still, it’s going to bog down his basic counting stats. Luckily, that’s completely insignificant. Thompson knows that - this kid is too smart to hunt assists at the expense of good basketball.
How will Thompson fare in the areas that count the most?
What will Thompson’s on-court impact be for the Rockets?
If you really want to measure Thompson this year, look at his on/off splits. That’s what matters.
I suspect that he’ll look good on rookie standards. For starters, he won’t be playing against starters. Thompson will probably be good enough from day one to shred some second units. With that said, some factors will probably limit his impact, too.
Mostly, his likely poor scoring efficiency will be a factor. The hope is that Thompson can eventually develop into the type of shooter that defenses at least guard - like, at all. In year one, that’s too ambitious of a goal. Defenses are going to sag off of Thompson. There will be times when it mucks up Ime Udoka’s entire attack.
Still, he’s got the tools to make up some of that ground. Thompson should wreak havoc as a defensive playmaker as a rookie. If you didn’t know, steals are the most valuable stat in basketball. Thompson will create and finish transition opportunities all year long. That’s going to be his bread and butter as a rookie.
Otherwise, his penchant for keeping the ball moving should help his teammates throughout the year too. When he’s sharing the floor with Kevin Porter Jr., that should make for a strong dynamic. One of the best young passers in the NBA and one of the best young catch-and-shoot players? Yes, please.
This is going to be fun. Ultimately, the stakes are lower than they have been in recent years. This is the Rockets’ backup point guard.
We’re all fortunate to be watching him play for the team in 2023-24.