In the Daryl Moore era, Houston rockets were skillfully overwhelmed. Although they won many, these teams were primarily defined by their role in emphasizing analytical models and style of play; All those three, free throws and rim shots were no accident. Now, Moore is rebuilding in Philadelphia and the Rockets. In Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., Houston has two young players who fit into an old mold – more intriguing than good, radically incomplete but still able to pass the moment. It’s not clear if they point to future greatness or just flash that will never add to an integrated whole. They are very fiery players. Regardless, the intermediate seems to be going to be an explosion.
Green spent last season in the G-League, where he averaged 17 points per game and analysts expected him to be a dynamic scorer. He has a lot of athleticism and can make shots anywhere on the floor. In Sunday’s game against the Celtics, he showed how deadly he can be, scoring 30 points while making eight three-pointers. In the fourth quarter, he punctuated his performance with two powerful transition dunk and a block from Jason Tatum, all in just one minute of play. Accustomed to the NBA, he is sure to have a lot of rough play in the future (despite trying to score 43 field goals, he still couldn’t get a free throw), but already in his third game, he showed NBA fans the excitement of what might happen next.
Green’s backcourt partner, Porter Jr., was acquired for a patent because the Cavaliers were so eager to trade him that they sent him on a rocket to pick a second-round draft so secure that it was never likely to be reported. After a trade charge for the Cleveland Tory Prince and a weapons charge and a locker room explosion, the team was desperate to sever ties and move on. In his 23 games with Houston, he had success. He averaged about 17 points and six assists while demonstrating intelligent ability to make shots for himself and others. There was also a 50-point, 11-assist game against the box, which over time may seem like a strange inconsistency – like the big scoring night of Brandon Jennings and Corey Brewer – than a legitimate coming party. But at least for now, it’s easy to believe it’s a sign of things ahead. Porter plays so smoothly that it almost feels like he’s moving slow, sliding in and out of the defense; Getting where he wants often seems like the easiest thing in the world to him.
In addition to Green and Porter, there is also Alperen Sengun who could be the biggest thief in the 2021 draft. Sengun was a Turkish league MVP earlier this year, averaging 18 points and eight rebounds per game with 62 per cent shooting. He showed a lot of skill as a post scorer and although he is still not a very good shooter, his high free-throw percentage gives him hope that he can be one. Sengun also seems to have the ability to pass legally. On Sunday, against the Celtics, when Josh Richardson dropped Christian Wood to Sengun’s double-team, he flew the ball over Wood over his shoulder. The transition touch pass given to Wood for another effortless slam in the season opener against Minnesota was very nice. At 19, Sengun is a project but if there is any hint of the first three games, he will have plenty of room to develop and explore his new skills, which already seem strong.
Finally, there’s Wood who is the best player on the team at the moment. After years of touring around the league as a bench player, he started in Detroit where he showed himself as a versatile big man who could shoot and score goals with equal skill. Last season, his first with Houston, he averaged more than 20 points per game for the first time in his career. It wasn’t a matter of a bad player picking up a good score Someone Had to score; He shot more than 50 percent overall and 37 percent from deep. He is playing better this year. Of these four young players, he is the closest to a finished project, but it says the same thing as Wood about Green, Porter and Sengun.
The Houston Rockets will not be a good team this year. And I’m not going to write about how bright their future is or whether this quartet is ready to take the team back to the post season in a few years. It is too early to make such predictions. For now, though, the Rockets are mixing throwback ball-leading scorers with modern big men. With a few expectations, they are instinctively giving their young players the freedom to play, to receive their every gift for free. It may not lead to many victories in the short term, but it is an explosion to watch them. Who needs a win when Jalen is knocking out Green Three, Alperen is giving a touch pass in the Sengun transition and Kevin Porter is fooling the junior defenders?