Houston Rockets 2016-2017 Season Recap: Sophomores

Nov 5, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Houston Rockets forward Sam Dekker (7) passes to forward Montrezl Harrell (5) against the Atlanta Hawks in the first half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Rockets 112-97. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Houston Rockets forward Sam Dekker (7) passes to forward Montrezl Harrell (5) against the Atlanta Hawks in the first half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Rockets 112-97. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Nov 5, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Houston Rockets forward S. Dekker (7) passes to forward Montrezl Harrell (5) against the Atlanta Hawks in the first half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Rockets 112-97. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, it was a stellar year for Houston Rockets sophomores. Both Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell witnessed great statistical and stylistic improvement.

To recap the Houston Rockets’ fantastic 2016-2017 season, Space City Scoop will be looking back on the performances of each player on the team. Everyone contributed in different ways and an overall recap just wouldn’t do the trick. We’ll get started today with the young guns, the sophomores on the team.

For starters, in the 2015-16 season, rookie Sam Dekker was practically not a factor. He logged just six minutes of action for the entire year, missing significant time after back surgery. After making advancements in his game for this season and staying healthy for the most part, however, Dekker boosted his stat line and abilities by a grand margin for 2016-17.

As for Montrezl Harrell, second year man out of Louisville, massive improvement was seen in his second season in the league as well. While Harrell was still a force in 2015-16 (averaged 3.6 points and 1.7 rebounds), he nearly doubled each major stat category this season.

Let’s get started with Trez and Dekk.

Next: Stats/overall impact

Dec 26, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Sam Dekker (7) dunks the ball during the third quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Toyota Center. Credit: Troy T.

Simply put, Dekker and Harrell both helped the Rockets lift off this year. After beginning as rookies with little impact, both now are legitimate contributors.

In 2015-16, Sam Dekker really did have minimal impact. This past season, however, was different. He nudged himself into a consistent role in the regular season as the ninth man, averaging 18 minutes per game. With his court time, Dekker was able to average 6.5 points per game along with 3.7 rebounds after putting up a goose egg in ’15-16.

Harrell was no different from Dekker. After a quiet but not unimpressive 2015-2016 season, he went from averaging 3.6 points per game to almost double digits this year (9.1). He also shot a blistering 65.2% from the field this season, third out of every player in the league with 200+ field goals made.

Montrezl’s role was a bit more unconsistent than Dekker’s, depending on Nene‘s playing time. Nene sat out on back-to-backs and several other occasions for rest, and those were the times when Trez got to shine. If Nene got significant minutes, though, Harrell found himself logging nothing but garbage minutes.

Despite posting respectable stat lines, the numbers do not tell the story for either of the Rockets’ sophomores. Rather, it was the intangibles that set them apart.

If you really paid attention to the Rockets this season, you noticed the grit these two brought.  The hustle for loose balls by Dekker. The extra dose of swagger with Montrezl.  All of these things, believe it or not, were an intangible part of Houston’s success this past season. They both saw their roles decrease in the playoffs with Mike D’Antoni tightening his lineup, but they will be a staple of Houston’s lineup for next season.

Next: Best moments

Dec 30, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Montrezl Harrell (5) and guard James Harden (13) celebrate after a play during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Toyota Center. Mandatory: Troy T.-USA TODAY

Career highs. Regular season glory. Off-the-bench contributions. As only second-year players, 2016-2017 was abundant with fun moments for Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell.

The greatest moment of the year for Sam Dekker was arguably his 30 points (career high) and 6 treys during a January game in Memphis. Dekker was simply hitting from everywhere. And his stroke followed through with the fluidity of a ten-year vet rather than a sophomore. It’s a tiny sample size, but that 30-point explosion was Sam’s only career start–his future looks pretty bright.

The best single-play moment from this season from Dekker was his obliteration of Enes Kanter in December. He caught a pass from Patrick Beverley on a fast break and punished Kanter’s attempt to block the attempt. Shea Serrano of The Ringer rated the dunk as 80% disrespectful–a solidly high score.

For Montrezl Harrell, the story was not much different. On December 30, 2016, Harrell happily treated fans at the Toyota Center with a fest of dunks and hustle plays during a home game versus the Clippers. He finished that night with a career high 29 points, finishing alley-oops and knocking down jumpers. There’s not many things more beautiful than watching Trez finish a hook shot over the outstretched arms of DeAndre Jordan.

Montrezl Harrell fully introduced his value and ability to fit in with Rocket basketball that night. His unprecedented energy levels and hustle for every loose ball brought fans to their feet. His climactic jams and barrage of layups helped sink the Clippers and, most of all, proved Harrell’s down-low dominance despite his height.

Next: Areas for improvement

Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets Dekker (7) dribbles the ball during a game against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Credit: T. Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Harrell and Dekker sprung this past season. But even for a second year man, expectations remain high.

Despite the oohs and ahhs caused by Dekker’s three-point stroke and Harrell’s constant energy, there is room for improvement.

If the Rockets want to continue to grow as a team, the bench has to continually develop. That being said, players like Lou Williams cannot carry the weight every single night.

More from Space City Scoop

It must start with Harrell and Dekker. Although Dekker was a comfortable three-point shooter, hhe closed this season at just 32.1%. In the Rockets’ Moreyball system, he’ll have to get that up towards 35% at least if he wants to maintain his role.

Harrell has established that he wants to play as a post man, but with that being said, his rebounds must increase like night and day for his presence to be felt against the league’s other bigs.

He only averaged 3.8 boards per game in over 18 minutes per night. That translates to 7.4 per 36 minutes, which is still low for a guy who wants to play center. I’d love to see Harrell work on his three-point shot as well and try playing the four. He only attempted seven threes all season, but he has  a full summer to add to his arsenal.

Although playoff contribution was a non-factor from these two sophomore Rockets, their regular season milestones truly impacted the franchise. The Rockets, more than many NBA teams, are about culture, and both of these young men epitomize that. I’m looking forward to Dekker’s and Harrell’s development through the years.

Next: The Rockets, the playoffs, and familiar unfamiliarity

Dekker and Harrell should both play a key role in the future of Houston basketball. And, lucky for Red Nation, that future looks very bright.