Rockets fans are understandably distracted by other events this week. The team is winless in four tries. But something important may be happening for the Rockets in the 2014 NBA Summer League in Orlando.
Combo guard Nick Johnson, selected 42nd overall out of Arizona, scored 22 points as part of a balanced line in an 88-74 Houston loss to Memphis. The strong performance is nothing new for Johnson, who is averaging 16 PPG so far this summer.
Fans have reason to be optimistic that Johnson, 21, could be a legitimate second-round sleeper who brings back pleasant memories of the Chandler Parsons pick three years ago. Like Parsons, who had a decorated career at Florida, Johnson was a power conference Player of the Year during his final season in school. Unlike Parsons, Johnson was also a first-team national All-American.
There are certainly limitations to his game. He is small for a two-guard, at 6’2″, and lacks the playmaking ability to run the point in a traditional or up-tempo offense (his Usage Percentage far exceeded his Assist Percentage, troubling for an undersized guard).
For now, his NBA upside might be Ben Gordon’s career. But there’s time for that evaluation to change as Johnson’s game matures. And even that is his peak, that could make him a valuable asset, both on the court and in future negotiations like the franchise-altering ones unfolding this week.