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Houston Rockets: Who Should Start at Power Forward?

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Now that the Houston Rockets have filled their biggest hole (the point guard position) with Ty Lawson, it’s time to analyze the position that may end up being the key to the Rocket’s quest for a championship: power forward. The Rockets have both Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas competing for the starting power forward position, and each player brings different skill sets to the starting lineup. Let’s take a closer look at both players and what they bring to the team.

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Terrence Jones

Terrence Jones has been on the Rockets since he was drafted with the #18 pick in the 2012 draft. He is an undersized power forward being only 6’9″, and this has caused him to struggle guarding the elite power forwards in the NBA, such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Zach Randolph.

Yet Jones does posses good ball-handling ability, and has shown that he can occasionally bring the ball up in the fast break. Let’s specifically analyze what Jones brings to the Rockets on offense and defense.

 

Offense

Terrence Jones has career averages of 11 ppg, 6.4 rpg, and 1.1 apg. Yet in the past two seasons, Jones has averaged close to 12 ppg and 7 rpg. The thing with Jones is that he lacks the ability to post up, and hasn’t improved his jumper enough to be considered a threat from the perimeter. In fact, Jones really gets most of his points from cleaning up rebounds and rolling to the rim.

However, the Rockets have Dwight Howard, who should mainly be used in pick-and-rolls, causing Jones to usually be a non-factor on offense. Jones hasn’t really shown any improvement in his post game, and being so undersized is a big disadvantage on offense for Jones. Despite that, Jones brings some positives on defense that Motiejunas doesn’t.

 

Defense

According to basketball-reference.com, Jones has posted a defensive box-plus minus (a box score estimate of the defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league average player) over 1.0 each of his three seasons in the league, and last season Jones posted a 102 defensive rating, which is very good. Jones has also averaged over a block per game each season, and although he is undersized, Jones is usually solid on defense. Jones is clearly better defensively than Motiejunas.

Although undersized, Jones (6) is better defensively than Motiejunas. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

 

Weaknesses

Terrence Jones does have key weaknesses that he must improve upon. First, he really must work on either his jump shot (to make him a threat from the perimeter and space the floor around Howard in the paint), or his post moves. Jones is not a competent offensive option at this point in his career, and it seems less and less likely that he will become one. Also, Jones has struggled with injuries over the past year, limiting him to only 33 games last season. It is crucial that Jones is healthy this season, in order to build chemistry with the team, as well as use the regular season to gain confidence. With that being said, let’s take a look at what Donatas Motiejunas can bring to the starting lineup.

 

Donatas Motiejunas

Motiejunas has been with the Rockets since the 2012 season (same as Jones), and is a 7 foot, skilled offensive big man (the exact opposite of Jones). Motiejunas struggled to develop in his first two seasons, forcing Rockets fans to worry whether or not he was the power forward of the future. Motiejunas has never been praised for his defense, ather his ability to score in the post. In fact, let’s look at Motiejunas and his offensive contributions.

Offense

In the era where traditional post moves (and the ability to consistently score in the post) are verging on extinction, Motiejunas is a breath of fresh air. I for one, love and appreciate the post game, and watching Motiejunas play in the post is a thing of beauty. Last season, Motiejunas filled in when both Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones were injured, and became the #2 option on offense.

Motiejunas was so good that Kevin McHale was able to build offensive game strategies around DeMo and his post play. Motiejunas averaged 12 ppg last season, highlighted by his 14 ppg month in January. If you don’t believe me, just watch this video to see just a glimpse of what Motiejunas can do on the offensive side of the floor.

Defense

Motiejunas is far from a defensive stalwart with a career DBPM of negative -0.3. Odder yet is Motiejunas is 7′, but  has never averaged more than 0.5 blocks per game, and has never posted a defensive rating better than 105. Although Motiejunas is no defensive anchor, he had minor improvements last season on the defensive end when he post a positive DBPM of +0.5. Suffice to say, Motiejunas is never on the floor for his defense. He can be a consistent number 2 or number 3 option on offense, and as long as he is a neutral defender, his impact on the floor will be positive.

Weaknesses

Motiejunas’s main weakness is his lack of defensive prowess. Being 7 feet tall and struggling to block shots just highlights his struggles on the defensive end. Also, though Motiejunas improved his three point percentage to almost 37% last season, he could still use a little improvement with his jump shot to make him a more consistent threat from the perimeter.

Who Should Start?

After reading all of those statistics and facts on the two, you must be wondering who I believe should start for the Rockets.

Even though I heavily support Motiejunas more than Jones and believe that Motiejunas is the power forward of the future for the Rockets, I actually believe Terrence Jones should start.

I say this for two reasons:

First:  Jones doesn’t command offensive touches much more than receiving a pass while rolling to the basket. He doesn’t take post touches away from Dwight Howard, and is really just there to clean up any offensive boards and set screens for James Harden and Ty Lawson.

Second: I love the idea of Motiejunas being a go to option on offense for the second unit. A bench unit consisting of Patrick Beverley (a great perimeter defender), Corey Brewer (an excellent transition player) and Motiejunas (a proven post scorer) is one of the best in the league.

Motiejunas will be able to have offensive possessions focused on him, which he would never get in a starting lineup that includes Lawson, Howard, and Harden. Also, I’m not particularly worried about the defense in the second unit, mainly because Beverley and Clint Capela are more than capable defenders.

Even though I firmly believe Motiejunas is a building block for the Rockets and has more potential than Terrence Jones, I actually believe Terrence Jones should start because of his defense and the fact that he won’t take away offensive possessions from the Rockets’ big three of Lawson, Howard, and Harden.

Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and remember to make Space City Scoop a daily stop for all things Houston Rockets.

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