The Houston Rockets will open their first game of the NBA Summer League against the Orlando Magic this Thursday evening in Las Vegas. After their success in the NBA Draft, Rockets fans are eager to see how well their draft picks perform. Here’s five reasons why you should tune in:
1. Jabari Smith Jr.
Headlining the first game are the first and third overall picks Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith Jr., who will go head to head in what should be a thrilling matchup.
In addition, the next game in the Summer League for Houston will be against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and second overall pick Chet Holmgren.
These first two games will allow Rockets fans to see how Jabari Smith Jr. performs against his fellow draft rivals. Since the NBA draft, he appears to have a chip on his shoulder after falling to third overall. It’s time to prove the Magic and Thunder regret passing on him.
2.The Supporting Cast
Aside from Smith Jr., rookies Tari Eason and TyTy Washington will be in the summer league as well. Non-rookies will have second year guards Josh Christopher and Daishen Nix. Christopher is definitely a shoe-in for the backup shooting guard position under Jalen Green. Washington and Nix are likely competitors for the Rockets’ backup point guard slot next season. It’s probable Coach Stephen Silas decides who is the better backup based on their overall performance in the Summer League and training camp this September.
3. Next seasons’ roster
It’ll be interesting to see how the roster will be constructed next season. Forward Tari Eason is slated to perform this year’s Summer League as the starting small forward. Fans will get to see his defensive prowess and three-point speciality at the NBA level. Although Eason’s goal is to make the starting rotation, his likely competition is Jae’Sean Tate and Eric Gordon.
Tate just resigned with the team on a three-year deal worth $22.1 million. His impact on the court last season was significant as the glue guy on the defensive side. It won’t be an easy task for Eason. The likely case scenario for the Rockets small forward is a sixth man, which is not too shabby.
Other forwards playing in the Summer League are third year prospect Anthony Lamb and G League player Trhae Mitchell.
4. The Garuba Situation
For the center position we have Usman Garuba. Last season, he averaged 2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.5 blocks and 0.4 steals in 10 minutes off the bench. Additionally, in the two games he started, he averaged 10.5 rebounds and a block in 27.7 minutes. Although this is a small sample size, his defense is something to consider. An undersized center at 6’8, he grabbed rebounds at a very high rate.
Garuba’s performance in Las Vegas is a make or break for him. He will need to showcase reliable rim protection, rebounding, and off ball defense. Filling the backup center position behind Alperen Sengun is the best case scenario. If Garuba shines in this year’s summer league, expect him to get the job as backup center. However, if he falls short, it will likely be another year in the G League for the native Spaniard.
5. A sneak peek of next season
The NBA Summer League for the Houston Rockets will be a little taste of how well the young core can perform alongside each other. Their results are an indication on how Houston assembles next seasons’ roster. With Christian Wood and John Wall going their separate ways, this team finally has enough time to prioritize developing a balanced roster around their young stars.