It’s Mr. Surprise, Cam Whitmore. The surprise was, of course, that the Rockets were able to draft both Amen Thompson at #4 and Cam Whitmore at #20. Some draft pundits had forecast Whitmore to the Rockets at 1-4, so to get him that late AND get Amen was considered quite a feat.
I still consider it to be so, even if we barely see Cam play for the Houston Rockets this season.
Here’s why I think this. Cam turned 19 (19!) in July. He’ll be 19 for the entire 2023-24 NBA season. This makes him one of the youngest players in the NBA, at the END of the season. To be sure, Cam already has the frame, the build, to be an ideal small forward. He’s got a scoring game, and he’s an aggressive defender. Odd are, though, Cam isn’t ready to be a regular NBA contributor, and the Rockets are off of their path of simply handing big minutes to raw players for them to sink or swim, sorry, to get reps.
The Rockets made clear just how much their strategy of the past two seasons is not their strategy of today by signing Reggie Bullock and His Potentially Fascinating Hair off waivers. The Rockets now pretty much have an entire veteran unit of players in Fred Van Vleet, Reggie Bullock, Dylan Brooks, Jeff Green and Jock Landale. It may not be a lineup to set hearts racing, but it’s definitely a plausible NBA lineup for all that. Now we add in Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr, Tari Eason, Amen Thompson and of course, Alperen Sengun.
It’s a bit hard to see where the Cam minutes would come from, initially, anyway. You might have noticed that players like Bullock, Green, Landale and even Brooks are likely tempting trade targets for teams that need to fill roster holes or find the missing piece for the playoffs. The Rockets aren’t forced to do this, of course, but they might want to do it. Doing so opens more minutes for some of the younger Rockets, and Whitmore might benefit, as he’s probably the best pure scorer on the team after Jalen Green.
Whitmore also scores in a slightly different way than Green. Where Jalen is a knife, Whitmore is a machete. Sure, he’s fast, but he’s big, too. I think he’ll do very well at that part of the NBA, fairly soon. The question comes in how well he’ll do the other things. The Rockets, by signing Fred Van Vleet, Dylan Brooks and Jock Landale, and by not signing James Harden, made their stance on team defense, and indeed, team offense, fairly clear. Whitmore will need to fit his offense game, which can sometimes be a bit monomaniacal in terms of scoring, into that vision.
I don’t doubt he can do it, I think we have just see the edges of his capabilities and talent. He’s a prototypical NBA small forward, if there are anymore prototypical small forwards, at 6’7” 235 (as an 18 year old). That said, I expect that Whitmore will start up with the Rio Grande Vipers just as soon as he can head down to The Valley. I also expect he’ll dominate the GLeague in fairly short order, and we’ll see him back in Houston sometime in early 2024.
It seems almost silly to assign expected scoring and other numbers to a player who at this point almost certainly doesn’t have any minutes allocated at present. The Rockets are fortunate that this is so. I think when we see Cam Whitmore, he’ll be providing scoring force, or just force, to the second unit. It’s the lunar new year of the dragon in 2024, February 10th, and I expect that’s when we’ll see the next dragon to wear Rockets red, in Cam Whitmore.
At that point I think his minutes will be fairly significant, as a leader of the 2nd unit, so around 16-20 per game. I’m not sure who he’ll take minutes from at this point, but I think that he will do it.
Meanwhile, let’s hope for a fun and promising pre-season for Cam. Sorry, CAM!
When do we see real Cam(!) minutes?
This poll is closed
At the start of this season.