The Houston Rockets picked up two potential projects when they signed former high draft picks Anthony Bennett and Ben McLemore this offseason.
For a lot of Rockets fans, there may be a hint of resistance, even frustration, in signing the young journeymen after what happened with Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight, Carmelo Anthony, etc. etc. etc. last season — Houston doesn’t have time for projects. But this year is different. The Rockets have afforded themselves the luxury of taking risks after they already loaded up on their roster and created a solid rotation that doesn’t necessarily rely on these two being integral parts. And having these two be successful in the lineup may not be as difficult as players past.
It’s been a while since the former No. 1 overall pick Anthony saw an NBA floor. The last time he was in the Association was in 2017, when he averaged 11 minutes and 5 points in 23 games for the Brooklyn Nets. With Houston, Bennett could find himself in an opportunity to reclaim a spot in the league.
In 23 games with the Los Angeles Clippers G-League affiliate, the Agua Caliente Clippers, the 6’8” forward averaged 12.2 points and 4.5 rebounds on 54.6 percent shooting from the floor in 20.9 minutes a game. While those aren’t the most astounding numbers, the thing that sticks out the most is his 45 percent shooting from deep on a solid 4.7 attempts a game. Contrary to popular belief, Bennett is actually fairly light on his feet and, at only 26 years old, he still has plenty of athleticism.
If he can translate this game to the league, it’ll be hard for the Rockets to turn down an athletic forward who can knock down threes.
Ben McLemore has had his ups and downs in his career, but you can hardly call him journeyman (even though I did up top because it’s actually much nicer than calling them “busts”). He played four full seasons with the team that drafted him, the Sacramento Kings, before signing with Memphis for his fifth, and then getting traded back to Sacramento for his sixth, where he was eventually waived in the middle of the season.
While that doesn’t sound like the most ideal career, it does say one thing about McLemore: he’s NBA talent. Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni agrees.
Mike D'Antoni on Ben McLemore: "There's no reason why he's not an NBA player. And a good one."— Salman Ali (@SalmanAliNBA) October 1, 2019
Those comments were made after McLemore put up 17 points and 3 rebounds on 35 percent shooting from three in the Rockets’ preseason win over the Shanghai Sharks, a game in which Bennett was unable to play.
At 6’5” and only 26 years old, the uber-athletic McLemore could very well find himself competing for serious minutes on the Rockets’ roster if he’s able to keep up this level of play.
The Rockets do have a solid core of veteran guys already, but if you do want to see a interesting and, albeit, feel-good story, keep an eye on what these two guys do this year.