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Houston Rockets: 4 Young Guys Impressing Thus Far In Preseason

By Brett David Roberts
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Apr 12, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Isaiah Canaan (1) drives to the basket past New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca (42) during the first half at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets have split the last two preseason games, defeating Phoenix 95-92, but losing to the New Orleans Hornets by a score of 117-98.  What can be drawn from these contests?

In the preseason, fans know that coaches often experiment with younger players and different lineups, to see how guys can function as units and to see what players are capable of before the pressure of the regular season ferments.

Thus far, four Rockets have taken advantage of this. One is rookie Kostas Papanikolaou, while second-year guards Troy Daniels and Isaiah Canaan have also impressed.  Second-year forward Terrence Jones has also impressed, but he and Kostas have been inconsistent in the last two games.

Kostas got in foul trouble against the Phoenix Suns, while Jones incurred the same problem in the loss to the Hornets.

Both played one exceptional game, but couldn’t string them back-to-back.

Canaan has been good scoring the ball, but hasn’t demonstrated a lot of point guard skills necessarily.

He had just one assist against the Hornets and three against the Suns. Two assists per game won’t get it done, but he’s a work in progress, as all these guys are. Canaan has had no trouble scoring, though, averaging 14.5 points in the last two preseason games.

Oct 14, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Houston Rockets guard Troy Daniels (30) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon (10) during the second half of a preseason game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Rockets 117-98. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Daniels has continued his hot shooting from last year’s playoffs, but mostly from behind the arc. In the win over the Hornets, Daniels hit 4-of-11 from the floor, but all four makes were triples. From two point range, he was 0-of-5.

Kostas’ inconsistencies are to be expected. He’s adjusting not only to a new league in the NBA, but also to a new country. His willingness to work hard should help overcome some of this, but he’ll still be learning the ropes as the season goes on.

Kostas’ calling card thus far has been defense and strong instincts with the ball in his hands.  The rest will come in time.  He had just four points in the win over Phoenix; but he shined in the Rockets’ loss, coming up with an efficient night shooting the ball (5-of-8 FG, 3-of-3 FT) to score 13 points and come up with a couple steals.

Jones, however, will need to be more consistent than this because he is pencilled into start at power forward.  Consistency has been an issue that dogged Jones last season, too.

However, he could still be at Kentucky if he hadn’t declared early, so maybe it’s too soon to expect him to be steady and at the top of his game every single night.

Jones would have likely been a lottery pick had he stayed another season in the NCAA, so to expect that kind of production eventually isn’t far fetched.  It just isn’t here yet.  Jones shot 8-of-15 against the Suns for 18 points, while also corralling seven boards, with three steals and a block.  In the game against the Hornets, he managed just five points due to foul trouble.

It’s early, and it’s nearly meaningless preseason games, but some deductions can be drawn from it all.  If the Rockets are to get a lot from its bench this year, it begins here.

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