Well, it’s still August. FIBA is underway, and France is already out. The US national team looks good, and Canada looks great. I think that’s something we can talk about to get us through September, as there is a Rocket involved. Yes, for Canada, yes, The Vestman, but still. Unfortunately, Turkey didn’t make the FIBA tourney, so we don’t get to see Sengun in his new PowerCenter position clowning people (and also looking considerably stronger).
In the meantime, I’m going to be taking a look at various Rockets and what we might like to see from each of them, in terms of player growth next season.
Today we’ll start with the Rocket that Rockets fans (and others) love to hate:
Kevin Porter Jr.
Let’s get this one out of the way.
One of the ways NBA podcasts have entertained themselves, and presumably us, over the summer is to hold mock expansion drafts for the likely expansion teams in Seattle and Las Vegas. A feature of these drafts is players left unprotected by their teams for the new teams to draft. Everyone doing this exercise has most teams leaving the dross or unwanted contracts of their rosters unprotected, as you’d expect. For Houston that means, for some reason, Kevin Porter Jr.
Let’s take a breath here. Kevin Porter Jr is about 90 days older than Keegan Murray, whom no one would dream of leaving unprotected in an expansion draft. Yes, he’s been in the league a while, and yes, there are some incidents that are far fresher in your mind than they are in his, as he’s young and time moves slowly to him, and you probably aren’t.
The Rockets are now paying Porter what amounts to low end starter, high end bench, money. The salary cap is not a problem for the Rockets right now, so control your Nate Duncan “Cut ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out! Spreadsheet perfection is the true perfection!” reflex. The Rockets have no need to move a deal they can simply decline at the end of any season.
I’ve never seen a player more thoroughly disliked, or be more of a lightning rod over aesthetics than Porter. It’s as if he was sort of lone-criminal-pervert-Christmas-hater who highjacked the Rockets offense to do terrible things to the basketball, rather than being a guy who was from all I could tell, trying to do what he was told to do.
I will stipulate that the experiment of trying to make Porter into James Harden was a failed one. He’s not a heliocentric player. He’s a perfectly good shooting guard who can also initiate the offense much better than someone like, say, Eric Gordon. If he’s your second unit PG, you’re actually doing fine.
These are his age 22 stats:
34mpg/19.2pts/5.3rbs/5.7ast/1.4stl/3.3TO - 37% 3pt
This is Keegan Murray, age 22:
30mpg/12.2pts/4.6rbb/1.2ast/.8stl/.8TO - 41% 3pt
Yes, I know one’s a rookie, and yes, they play different positions, but nobody would dream of leaving Murray exposed in an expansion draft. That would be insane. Murray was an older rookie, but Porter was a very young player in nothing but bad situations. Porter still isn’t old, even if he’s been on our minds for a while. He’s still not in peak years territory, even if the Rockets have been awful. His ability to nail catch-and-shoot three pointers probably hasn’t vanished.
The point being, Kevin Porter isn’t a bad player. He wasn’t one even in a terrible situation. He just wasn’t. He’s not a cancer, and he’s not a liability. His play looked unappealing, and NBA commentators didn’t like it, what little they watched. Guess what? The entire team looked unappealing (Sengun’s antics excepted), and yes, an undercooked Harden-lite looked worst of all. I simply don’t think he’s going to be asked to do that again, so it shouldn’t be an issue.
I expect if you let him play his actual position, rather than trying to hammer him into being Luka or Harden in a scheme that simply didn’t work, he’d go back to his higher 3pt shooting percentage, and would also develop a better assist to turnover rate.
I agree, no one should let him be a full time PG ever again. Fortunately, the Rockets now have a Proven Veteran Point Guard, and an Explosive Young Point Forward/Guard/Movie Star/Whatever. I think there’s a good shooting guard struggling to get out of the clown suit he was dressed in.
If the Rockets are all getting a fresh start under Ime Udoka, let the one player who showed up for Ime’s first press conference have a fresh start, too.
This poll is closed
6th Man of The Year
Better than Green, Unfortunately
Good Bench Guard
Star of His Hometown Seattle Supersonics
Hopefully Someone Else’s Problem