Sports

A Way-Too-Early Check-in on the Rockets' Four Rookies, Plus Young Vets

Jae'Sean Tate has been everything Rockets fans want him to be early this season.
Jae'Sean Tate has been everything Rockets fans want him to be early this season. Screenshot
It's been barely a week since the NBA season opened, but we have gotten to see the Rockets rookies in action for a few games already and it's been an interesting mixed bag, pretty much what you would expect from a bunch of young guys who barely know each other. Lot of turnovers, iffy shooting and some moments of "Oh, my God!"

Only three games in, we are going to do a quick visit to Toyota Center to see how these young Rockets are doing (outside of Christian Wood who is dominating), particularly the four rookies.

Jalen Green

Green has been a bit of a slow burn starter. With only nine points in his first couple of outings, it was natural to both blame jitters and wonder how he would develop. But, he busted out Sunday night with 30 points on eight three pointers, setting a new team rookie record. He also gave us his first real vicious slam dunk, of which there will no doubt be many more. More importantly, he has not looked uncomfortable or out of place. In fact, he has been keyed on by teams and, in response, he changed his game and showed himself to be an unselfish and willing passer. He has a long way to go, but Sunday was a big step forward.

Alperen Sengun

Out of the four rookies, Sengun is the one guy you can count on every single night to do something that makes you go, "Wait, he's not a veteran?" He's averaging 8 points and nearly 5 rebounds on 50 percent shooting and 83 percent from the free throw line. He's getting a block and a couple steals a game as well. He's honestly tough for even NBA vets to stop close to the basket because of his killer footwork and he's already showing flashes of that Nikola Jokic-style passing we had heard about.


Usman Garuba

Garuba hasn't gotten a ton of minutes and that is to be expected given his limited offensive skills, but the Spanish rookie has already demonstrated he can hold his own defensively. He not only has some bulk and long arms, but he already has well developed shot blocking instincts. He will need time to gain experience, but he seems NBA ready on the defensive end.

Josh Christopher

As we thought from training camp, Christopher is a guy with loads of potential who is going to need time to hone his NBA game. He's gotten only limited minutes with plenty of other guards ahead of him, and when he has gotten in, it's been boom or bust. Not sure how long the team will keep him on the big league roster. Some could depend on injuries or trades, but Christopher will need some experience either with the Rockets or in the G League in order to contribute.

Kevin Porter, Jr.

Making the conversion to point guard might be the most difficult switch in basketball. Porter, who has mostly operated off the ball, is now being asked to get guys in the right spots, call plays and facilitate pretty much everyone on the floor. It's a tough task, as evidenced by his early ups and downs. He will continue to score and he will turn the ball over a lot. It's not entirely his fault. This team doesn't know each other and there is nothing to change that but time together. Fortunately, Porter seems to be getting more comfortable and that will only get better in time.

Jae'Sean Tate

Last year's hustle machine hasn't changed much other than showing he can knock down a three, something he worked hard on in the offseason. He is all over the floor, sometimes literally sprawled out on it, and continues to demonstrate a deft hand around the basket. He was a good rebounder, but it feels like he is always near the ball on the glass and many of his points come on cuts to the basket or offensive boards, so the team never has to run a play for him. He's pure energy, something this team will need as they try to figure things out.


K.J. Martin

Strangely, Martin has only appeared in mop up time in two games. At one point last year, he was in the starting lineup and his growth over the offseason seemed fairly significant. This team has a LOT of wing players and, at this point, we have to assume there is just a numbers game happening. It still feels like he is a guy who will contribute, but it make take a few weeks to shake out just what this rotation will be and how deep coach Stephen Silas is willing to go into his bench on a regular basis.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke