The Houston Rockets were winners on draft night for the second straight year. The first draft post-James Harden yielded the Rockets a franchise cornerstone player in Jalen Green, a starting center in Alperen Sengun who has already exceeded most expectations in the first year, and a shooting guard who showed at the end of the year he could become a valuable sixth man in Josh Christopher. Even though Usman Garuba didn’t have the opportunity last year to show if he will be able to contribute in the NBA, the Rockets will give him that opportunity this year.
Fast forward to the 2022 draft, and the Rockets added three more talented young players. Starting with the shocking third overall pick Jabari Smith. Smith, for most of the offseason, was the odds-on favorite to go number one overall, but in a Hollywood-type shocker, Paolo Banchero went number one to the Orlando Magic, which enabled the Rockets to take Smith two picks later. They also added Tari Eason at 17 and another surprise, Ty Ty Washington, after a trade to move back to 29 while adding two future picks.
Remember the word “patience because” it is the theme of this entire article. The Rockets have now added seven draft picks in a two-year period. If you add Daishen Nix, who they signed after an excellent year with the Vipers, you are now up to eight.
Rockets fans’ patience is the key
Having young players on your team can be exciting and fun to watch, but it can also be frustrating sometimes. No matter how good a young player is on the court, he is bound to struggle at some point, especially in his rookie year. We saw it with Jalen Green, where he struggled for the first two months of the season. Green had issues with his shot and, at times, on the defensive end.
Even though Sengun played consistently good all year, he sometimes struggled to avoid foul trouble and limit his turnovers. Christopher started slowly as well, adjusting to the speed of the NBA. Even players like Kevin Porter Jr. struggled with turnovers and occasional lapses on defense in his third year.
You also saw Green starting to figure out how to succeed in the NBA, especially after the All-Star break. It took him some time, but Green showed precisely why he was the number two overall pick. Green went on a scoring barrage that we haven’t seen in decades and showed a lot more confidence going to the basket and on defense. Three of the four Rockets rookies show great development throughout the year.
Next year, when Smith, Eason or Washington have a 4-15 game with five turnovers, we all need to keep in mind that it is bound to happen. It always happens with rookies because they have a lot of areas to adjust to. It could be the speed of the game is too fast, adjusting to a more rigorous travel schedule, hitting the rookie wall at some point in the season, or just learning their new teammates tendencies on offense or defense. The point is that you should never be overly critical of a young player in this league. You really don’t know what you have in a player until at least year three.
This is not to say they can’t be criticized, but going overboard on the criticism is usually not warranted for players who haven’t had time to develop. So remember this, Rockets fans, once next season starts, because growing pains are coming, but brighter days are ahead.