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The Rockets Double Down With Tanking


Coach Stephen Silas frustrated with the Rockets

It’s been a dreadful start to the NBA season for the Houston Rockets. After going 0-3 in matchups against the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston is now 2-12 and are dead last in the NBA standings. Following their second win against the Orlando Magic, Houston has lost the last three games and will face the red-hot Dallas Mavericks tonight.

First Half Champions

While there wasn’t any potential to become a playoff team anytime soon, being dead last in the standings for a third straight season hasn’t been fun to watch. It’s not that their downright terrible. It’s the lingering issue to close out games effectively. Nearly every game has had the roster in the position to win in the first half.

But that’s the first half. It isn’t the entire game. You need to keep that same consistency in all 48 minutes. For the most part, it’s a close game at the half following a complete collapse down the stretch. As of right now, they have the second worst net rating in the league.

While other rebuilding teams such as the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Orlando Magic aren’t good teams either, at least they indicate signs of improvement. This keeps their fans something to be excited about. Rockets fans and media are concerned with Houston’s overall production and lack of growth.

If this pace of losing is consistent, they have the chance to be the first team with worst record in the NBA for three straight seasons. With that being said, let’s take a look at the positives:

Jalen Green

Jalen Green On the Bench with Alperen Sengun

One of the few bright spots has been Jalen Green. He has been playing very good basketball, averaging 22.0 points per game on 43.3% from the field and 37.5 % from three. Additionally, his play has been better than any of the top ten in his draft class.

Green’s scoring has been mostly on his shot creating, acrobatic layups, and pull up threes. Also, his finishes at the rim are instant highlight reels. Jalen certainly understood the assignment in the offseason, as he’s significantly improved from last year. Expect to see him average 25-30 points per game in the next few years as the face of the Houston Rockets.

Alperen Sengun

Rockets fans expected Sengun to take a big leap this season in his young career. So far, he hasn’t disappointed. Sengun is quietly having a breakout year, averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds per game.

Sengun’s footwork in the post is unmatched. His size at 6’9 doesn’t matter when his posting up inside. He can hit you with a myriad of moves, such as the dream shake, can pivot effortlessly with multiple up and under fakes, and is also an excellent facilitator. Although his assist numbers don’t show it, that’s mainly due to the rather low shooting percentage from his teammates.

Sengun still needs to work on his three point shooting and defense. Once these are  improved, he has the potential to become one of the most dominant big men in the league.

Here Come the NegativesEric Gordon Is upset

In coach Stephen Silas’ first season with the Rockets, the team shifted from a potential contender to a complete rebuild within the first couple of weeks to start the season. Houston had no direction or identity so it’s completely justifiable for his poor coaching in the first year. Fast forward to now and things still haven’t improved. This season, Silas has among the worst coaches in the league thus far. Many fans and Houston media are calling for General Manager to fire the Rockets head coach,

One of the reasons why he hasn’t coached well are his rotations. With various young guys on the team, expect them to receive a bulk of the minutes. Eric Gordon is clearly frustrated as per his tweet. This was tweeted following the loss to the Clippers. A veteran at age 33, Gordon is the starting small forward and plays 30 minutes.

Josh Christopher, who was really solid last season and performed well in the NBA Summer League, is getting only 8 minutes per game. This is less than journeyman Garrison Matthews.

Poor Coaching Decisions

Matthews is playing 12 minutes as a three point specialist off the bench. However, he is only shooting 34% from deep this season. Based on the roster structure, Garrison doesn’t appear to be a part of the rebuilding process for the Rockets. His minutes prevent Josh Christopher from capitalizing on opportunities of basketball growth with his teammates.

In addition to Matthews, Coach Silas also sticks with guard Daishen Nix on the court. Nix has currently 14 minutes yet he barely averages three points per game. Silas also puts Sengun on the bench during clutch moments, which is something that shouldn’t happen.

Jabari Smith Jr.

On offense, Silas’ game plan has lately been a mess with rookie and third overall pick Jabari Smith Jr.

Jabari appears lost on the wings and watches either Jalen Green or Kevin Porter Jr. practice their 1 on 1 streetball skills. Silas hasn’t placed the rookie in position to excel in the NBA. If Jabari was placed in a better coaching a development system, there’s no doubt he would be mentioned as one of the candidates for Rookie of the Year. Jabari is averaging only 10.1 pionts 6.7 rebounds, shooting 31.6% from the field and 29.7% from three.

Silas Isn’t All to Blame

This isn’t to say this is all Silas’ fault. When given the ball, Jabari is supposed to be able to knock down shots. Back at Auburn, he was #1 in  contested shots. Knocking down jumpers and threes with ease hasn’t translated so far in the NBA. However, there is a case for Silas failing to highlight his true strengths.

While Jabari was known to be a knockdown shooter on the court, he never was hailed as a quality shot creator. Placing him in offensive sets will be able to showcase his talents. This can be done by running off of screens which will present him wide open looks. It isn’t beneficial for Jabari to stand in the corner and imitate former player PJ Tucker.

Silas needs to understand how important it is to provide impactful opportunities for Houston’s young cornerstones. They’re all still very young in their career and can definitely improve. If Houston is going to be a bad team, that’s fine. However, at least place the young core opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. Subbing in Boban Marjanovic during crutch time is doing the exact opposite.

Kevin Porter Jr.’s Point Guard Struggles

Rockets Guard Kevin Porter Jr. was given the contract extension with caveats, in order to improve his facilitation. So far, there hasn’t been significant improvements. he’s better suited as the two. while Porter is average 5.6 assists, he’s also averaging 4 turnovers per game. Silas and his coaching staff have tried to elevate Porter’s court vision, but they can only do so much.

Porter has more of a scorers mentality. Teaching facilitation to a scorer is difficult because its unlikely that the player completely changes his game. Maybe facilitate here and there, but not completely transform into a formidable playmaker. Jabari and Green both need a high level point guard who feeds the basketball and makes their teammates better.

Better Chance At the Draft?

If the NBA season ended today, the Rockets would have a 22% chance at landing either phenoms Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson in next years draft. These players have been lighting up on the court with the media all over them. They have the potential to be one of the top five young players in the NBA within the next several years.

While the Rockets can certainly boost their chances at drafting them, it isn’t without displaying significant improvement as a team right now. Continuously losing games isn’t the issue. It’s how they’re losing and failing to give the young guys positions to win ballgames.

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