Our TDS Player Preview series continues with two young guards who look to get their pro careers started with the Houston Rockets. They will have a tough time cracking the 12-man, however, because Houston is loaded at guard (James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, Ben McLemore), but keep an eye on these two in the G-League.
Clemons came to the Rockets as an undrafted free agent and immediately made an impact in Las Vegas Summer League. He fit right in with Houston’s three-point-heavy philosophy, shooting 11.4 triples per game over five Summer League contests (making 4.8 for 42 percent). He was explosive offensively, averaging 20.2 points per game, which was best on the team.
The number one knock on Clemons is his size, as he comes in at just 5’9”, which makes him a huge liability on the defensive end. He can make up for that deficiency with increased effort, but whether that effort and his offensive ability are enough to compensate is yet to be determined.
Clemons is likely headed for the G-League because the Rockets simply have too many other pieces for him to contribute regularly, but his exhibit 10 contract means the Rockets will either convert him back to a two-way deal before the start of the season or cut him and then sign him to a G-League only deal. I’d expect a two-way deal and assignment to Rio Grande Valley, but don’t be surprised if he gets a chance with a call-up to the big boys to prove his shooting is for real should the Rockets suffer injury at the guard position.
Ponds, similar to Clemons, was signed to a two-way deal, but had the two-way ended and converted to an exhibit 10 deal. That means Ponds is likely headed for the G-League as well, as the exhibit 10 means he’ll get a bonus should he sign with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (as opposed to playing overseas) after (likely) getting cut. He could also be signed to a new two-way deal (similar to what I think they do with Clemons), but the most likely scenario is straight to the G-League without the two-way.
Many of us were high on Ponds when he also came to the Rockets as an undrafted free agent, but he just didn’t show much this summer. He averaged just 7.2 points and 1.8 assists per game on some awful 30 percent shooting from the field and 22 percent from deep. He played roughly 100 total minutes in Houston’s five games.
He is talented though, and some were surprised he went undrafted, so maybe some time with the Vipers will unlock some of his potential. It worked for Danuel House, so it’s important for him keep playing basketball, hopefully in Rio Grande Valley.