The NBA trade deadline has passed, and the entire league has been shaken up. Ranging from blockbusters to marginal trades, the landscape of the league has shifted. Houston Rockets General Manager Rafeal Stone made a move at the deadline, even though it was an unexpected move the team feels they are moving in the right direction. We’ll dive into the trade and how the team has looked so far this season.
The Trade Deadline-
The initial rumors were that the Rockets would receive a decent return for Eric Gordon in a trade. The deadline has passed and there were no deals made to send Gordon to a contender as expected. The Rockets supposedly were offered a late first-round pick for Eric Gordon, but Stone made the executive decision to hold onto the last player that has experience playing winning NBA basketball.
It’s disappointing to see no deal for Gordon after hearing rumors that the Rockets could get a pick in the teens for Gordon but it’s not the end of the world that Gordon stayed put. The optics look bad from a distance, but the Rockets are still on pace to be a great developing team. The team has a few holes like interior defenders and wing 2-way players and the only move Stone made didn’t exactly patch any of those holes.
The Rockets traded forward Daniel Theis for Dennis Schröder, Enes Freedom, and Bruno Fernando. The Rockets immediately waived Enes Freedom as well as D.J. Augustin and Armoni Brooks to make room on the roster for the trade. The average height for the Rockets is 6’4 and losing a vet like Theis will hurt even if he was out of the rotation. The guard logjam has gotten worse now that Schröder will be inserted into the second unit.
It was a good move to send Theis back to Boston where he could help a team contend over having him rot on the bench, the front office admitting things didn’t work out as expected. It would not be a good move to add Schröder into the rotation and take away valuable playing time from the younger guards. Schröder could show the young guards a few things, but he should not take away any of those precious early career reps.
Team Performance Grades-
It is almost impossible to accurately grade this young Rockets team, there are too many variables to consider whether it’s experience, size, IQ, or skill this team is just young and to be honest undersized. I previously stated that the average height for the Rockets is 6’4 well the average age for this young team is 24 with 7 players 21 and younger.
Kevin Porter Jr– B+
KPJ had a rough start to the season but has shown impressive maturity after his suspension earlier in the year. KPJ is averaging 13.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 6.1 APG this season while shooting 40% from the field and 38% from deep. Porter Jr. has improved as a defender and a shooter this season, averaging 1.2 steals per game this season and he’s shooting 50% from behind the arc over the last 6 games.
Jalen Green– C-
Green has had some very high highs and some low lows so far in his NBA career, but he’s shown constant growth. Green has honestly relied on his shooting too much early in his career, he’s still getting used to NBA contact. It’s obvious that JG needs to bulk up and just impose his will going to the basket. Once Green is comfy in this league, he’ll be an issue for years to come. Green is averaging 14.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 2.4 APG his growth doesn’t show in the stats, he just makes the right play more times than not.
Wood was poised to have a breakout season this go around but his season can be labeled as inconsistent, to say the least. There’s no limit to the skills Wood has, he can be an elite big man offensively having no weaknesses to his game. The two things holding Wood back are his defensive presence down low and his attitude towards the game. After a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team and some head-scratching plays, there’s room to wonder where Wood is mentally. Wood averages 17.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, and 1 BPG this season shooting 38% from the field and 37% from 3.
Jae’Sean Tate– A-
There’s not a glaring stat to show how impactful Tate has been for the Rockets. Tate has been probably the most consistent player for the Rockets this season. You just know what you’ll get out of Jae’Sean, hardnosed defense and powerful moves down low make him a legit piece to this team. Tate averages 12.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 3.1 APG this season shooting 50% from the field and 30% from behind the arc. Tate may be the best defender for the Rockets right now his stats can’t encapsulate his value.
Eric Gordon– B
Gordon is a true professional and he may end up being a Rocket for a while. He has played well considering his complicated role on this rebuilding team and serious trade rumors. Gordon could easily look the young guys off and go for 30 every night but he understands it’s about the development of the team. EG averages 14.2 PPG, 2 RPG, and 3 APG this season shooting 49% from the field and 42% from 3 to make him 8th best in the league. Gordon has the ability to fill any role for this team at a flip of a coin and that’s an invaluable quality for a player on a team like this.
Şengün is an interesting player who has so many tricks up his sleeves you’d think he was a 10-year vet but he’s only 19 years old. Al P only averages 8.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 2.5 APG this season but the eye test speaks volumes when you watch Şengün on the court. Crafty footwork down low, elite fakes and scoops, and passing ability only comparable to unicorns like Nikola Jokić. Şengün has all the skills to be a star in this league but his conditioning and foul tendencies might be something he improves on the way to stardom.
Josh Christopher may have improved the most out of the 4 rookies drafted by the Rockets. Jaygup dominated in the G-League earlier in the season and forced the Rockets to call him up to the big brother squad. Some scouts thought Christopher was a mid-first round pick, but he somehow slid to the Rockets at 24th. Jaygup has only averaged 7.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG, and 1.7 APG this season shooting 46% from the field and 33% from 3. Again, stats can’t encapsulate what Jaygup brings to the team especially defensively. With time and opportunities, Christopher will become a solid 2-way player in the NBA.
KJ Martin had a pretty decent rookie season last year where he showed why GM Rafeal Stone went to find him straight out of IMG Academy. Unfortunately, this season KJ has taken on a smaller role for this rebuilding team not even cracking 20 MPG. KJ averages 8.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 1.3 APG this season but his numbers only reflect half the story. With a limited role, KJ still finds ways to be effective and plays solid defense at all times. Once KJ gets more run, he’ll look like a legit small ball 4.
Garrison Mathews– B+
Better known as “Garry Bird”, Mathews has made a name for himself this season scorching the net from deep and putting his body on the line for his team. Garry Bird was claimed on waivers by the Rockets in October 2021 and by December he was signing a full NBA contract. Mathews helped the Rockets to a 7-game winning streak where Mathews shot the lights out and played some very aggressive defense. In only 38 games Mathews has accumulated the most charges drawn so far this season showcasing how much he tries on that end.
The Rockets are a very young but promising team who go out and play hard every game. Skill is not something that is lacking on this roster, defense and IQ are the biggest things holding this team back. The Rockets have the worse defense in the league with a 116 Def Rtg. for the season, that’s not good. A legit rim protector would definitely help this team with some of its issues, but teams just get whatever they want on the Rockets over time. That’s where the IQ comes into consideration, the young guys will gain knowledge with more reps and with more playing time but it’s clear they are outmatched when they play an experienced team. It’s the Rockets’ first full season of the rebuild and there is so much potential for this team in the future if everything works out in their favor.
The maturity and growth shown by Kevin Porter Jr. this season is something special to see. KPJ has all the tools to be an elite guard in this league, he just has to put it all together. Jalen Green has also shown some growth over the season, becoming more aggressive on the court to get to his spots. Once JG packs on a few pounds and realizes no one can actually guard him he’ll easily be a 20-25 PPG guy by his 3rd year in the league. The backcourt of the future is very promising, and the Rockets have the majority of the roster filled with budding stars the front office just has a few holes to patch in order to take the next step in this rebuild. This season has gone as you could expect, up and down filled with inconsistency but overall, it’s been fun to see the young guys grow together.
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