HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets will open their 2022 NBA Summer League schedule Thursday evening against the Orlando Magic inside the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Headline by Jabari Smith Jr., the Rockets are one of the most intriguing teams entering summer league play. Houston will play four games between July 7 – 14. If the Rockets are one of the two teams with the best record, Houston will take part in the Summer League Championship Game on July 17.
The Rockets are entering the summer league contest with a 14-man roster that features 10 rookies. The elder of Houston’s summer league group is third-year prospect, Anthony Lamb.
Here is a roster breakdown by position highlighting the most important players to watch during the Rockets’ summer league action.
The Rockets will be in Las Vegas with eight guards on their roster, headlined by second-year prospect Josh Christopher. Given his experience during his rookie season, Christopher should be an early favorite for MVP honors.
He is a shoo-in as the starting two-guard for the Rockets, but it’s going to be interesting to see who will start opposite Christopher inside the Thomas And Mack Center.
Daishen Nix should take the helm as the Rockets starting point guard during summer league. But Houston may want to see what they have in their rookie, TyTy Washington.
Washington is a natural floor general who spends more time facilitating the ball than looking for his shot. Whoever wins the summer league competition between Nix and Washington will have an upper hand on which player will take over as Kevin Porter Jr’s backup next season.
Houston’s second unit will likely receive a scoring boost from undrafted rookie Trevor Hudgins. He averaged 23.0 points on .482/.415/.901 shooting splits while recording his second consecutive NABC Division II Player of the Year honors.
Guards: Jordan Allen, Tamenang Choh, Eron Gordon and Carl Pierre.
The forward position will be the most significant production of the summer for the Rockets. Houston will have four forwards participating in Las Vegas, with Jabari Smith and Tari Eason leading the way.
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Summer League will be the first opportunity for the Rockets to witness if they drafted the best player out of the trio of Smith, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren. Smith was disappointed that he was not the first player selected during the 2022 NBA Draft and should compete with a chip on his shoulder — similar to Jalen Green’s summer league performance last July.
If Eason isn’t starting at small forward, he will likely be the Rockets’ sixth-man. It will be intriguing to see if Eason can maintain his 16.9 points scoring average from LSU without the ball in his hands. But Eason will be able to showcase his immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball on an NBA level.
Forwards: Anthony Lamb and Trae Mitchell.
The Rockets will have two big men playing center during their summer league contest, and their on-court production from the middle will determine whether or not general manager Rafael Stone will sign another big man prior to the start of training camp.
Second-year prospect Usman Garuba will likely start at center. If Garuba showcases he can live up to the modest expectation of a backup big man, expect him to establish himself as a vital piece in coach Stephen Silas’ rotation next season. But should Garuba fall short, his performance in Las Vegas could result in the Spain native spending another season playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
The best way for Garuba to stand out in Houston’s crowded frontcourt is to be a defensive anchor who can protect the basketball and rebound. The Rockets received a small sample of the defensive impact Garuba can have during the two games he started at center last season. He notched 10.5 rebounds and a block when playing an average of 27.7 minutes per game.
Although the Rockets have a backup for Garuba, Houston will potentially run a few lineups that feature Smith taking the helm at the center position.
Forward: Aric Holman.
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