Houston Rockets Daily Rocket Science: The Youngsters

Mar 9, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) dribbles the ball past Philadelphia 76ers guard Hollis Thompson (31) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) dribbles the ball past Philadelphia 76ers guard Hollis Thompson (31) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The Rockets might not have had a first round pick in this year’s draft, but that doesn’t mean the team is lacking in promising young talent.

K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker, and Montrezl Harrell should all see a significant increase in playing time this season. McDaniels and Harrell saw a bit of time last season, primarily during garbage minutes, while Dekker sat out all year with a back injury.

After the three of them performing well during the Summer League, it’d be surprising if they didn’t work their way into the rotation to some extent.

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Dave Leonardis of Today’s Fastbreak wrote more extensively on the three youngsters stealing the show at times during Summer League action, highlighting the promising aspects as well as their flaws. All three of them have significant work to do in the three-ball department, but are all young enough to develop that part of their game.

"Harrell is posting a similar stat line to Dekker (13.5 points, five boards), but brings a different element to the table. He’s a high-energy forward who is most effective around the rim, which limits him as a scorer. After avoiding the three-point line last season, the Louisville product is trying to broaden his offensive horizons this summer. The results haven’t been pretty (14.3 percent from three), but the effort is promising."

Another player who’s shown promise is new draftee Chinanu Onuaku. Though he likely will spend most of this season in the D-League, his free throw strategy should be exciting for fans. Space City Scoop editor Tamberlyn Richardson expounded on how his willingness to put his ego aside is rarely seen in the NBA today.

Chinanu Onuaku, the Houston Rockets 6’10” rookie power forward/center from Louisville, is like many big men in the NBA these days. He struggled to hit his free throws witnessing his free throw percent dropping to 46.7% in 2014-15.

So, coach Rick Pitino approached him to offer a solution.  He had him view old NBA tape of Rick Barry throwing under hand free throws and the pair set out to correct his woes at the line.

What occurred is Onuaku improved to 58.9% and that was after just one season. While his percentage still could stand further improvements a 12.2% increase is a large jump.

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While the Rockets’ future looks bright with all the young talent around, there still is undeniable value in having seasoned veterans on the roster. Bleacher Report’s Kelly Scaletta graded each of Houston’s free agency signings this summer, and the two veteran additions topped the list. Having Nene and Pablo Prigioni on the team won’t add a ton of on-court help, but will provide the locker room with much-needed leadership and experience.

Nene is one of the better-value signings of the offseason, as the Rockets landed him for one year at just $.2.9 million. He’s not Dwight Howard, but he doesn’t need to be for that kind of money.

As he’s aged and the game has changed, Nene’s defense has waned, but it’s not awful.

Based on Seth Partnow’s rim protection stats at Nylon Calculus, Nene saved 4.61 points per 36 minutes at the rim last year, which is the same as Clint Capella. His DRPM is a solid plus-3.02 (10th of 73 centers), and opponents shot 4.9 percent below their season averages within six feet of the basket when he was on the court.

With the Western Conference shaping up to be as scary as ever, James Harden and company will need all they help they can get from both veterans and newbies alike.

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