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Rockets 2021 player previews: Chris Clemons

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The pint-sized scorer is back, will he challenge for minutes?

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Houston Rockets Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Clemons

The 5’9” Clemons came to the Houston Rockets last season as un undrafted free agent out of Campbell University in North Carolina, initially on a two-way deal, but one that was later converted to a standard contract. He’s due to be paid $1.5 million this year non-guaranteed and also has a $1.7 million team option for 2022, so this looks like a make-or-break year for Clemons with the franchise.

And there’s a window of opportunity here. With Russell Westbrook and Austin Rivers both gone from the guard rotation and the health of the incoming John Wall a question mark until we can see him on the court, there’s an opening for some minutes.

Ben McLemore is still around, Jerian Grant was picked up off the free agent pile, David Nwaba should be returning healthy, while Sterling Brown, Mason Jones, K.J. Martin all have their eyes on that opening in the rotation as well.

Clemons has the shooting to fit alongside a James Harden-dominant offense. He hit on 35 percent of his triples, but has no trouble slingin’ it as much as possible, as he had a per36 of 13.2 three-point attempts per game. In fact, 107 of his 142 total shot attempts on the year were from three.

The reliance on the deep ball might lessen some with Stephen Silas in town and some new big men on the roster, but it will still be a huge part of Houston’s game. Clemons has that down pat. He also has the speed to succeed off-ball in a new Silas system and the fearlessness to continue to score.

But where Clemons really struggles is on defense. Because of his diminutive size and inexperience, he’s basically a turnstile on D, as he put up a 112 defensive rating this past season and -1.3 defensive box plus-minus. That’s his major obstacle to getting on the court for the Rockets.

There are multiple young guys now vying for that backup guard spot. Can Clemons improve enough on defense while still maintaining his offensive firepower? That’ll tell his tale in Houston.