The Houston Rockets, in recent years, have had an important third center need. Who will play that role for the upcoming season?
In the Clint Capela/Nene era for the Houston Rockets, the team has needed a third center on the roster to play a decent amount of minutes during the regular season.
Both of those centers have dealt with injuries while on the Rockets and the need for that backup has been there. Now, they may need it more than ever as Nene continues to get older, entering his age 36 season. He can still get it done in short bursts and is a great locker room guy, but the desire to get younger at that position is obvious.
Last season, Tarik Black started the year in this third center role. The year before, it was Montrezl Harrell stepping in for Nene and Capela when they were hurt or resting. Who can fill that role for the upcoming season with Tarik gone?
One of the options for this role is the recently signed rookie Isaiah Hartenstein. He is coming off of a very successful Summer League that saw him earn a contract with the Rockets and could find himself in this role if he continues to play well in training camp and the preseason.
Hartenstein is someone who can eventually become the backup center for the team. He is young, can score around the basket and rebound as well as pass the ball. His shot is still developing, but he could very well be able to shoot from 3 eventually. In a limited amount of 3s taken at Rio Grande Valley last season, he shot 34%.
Zhou, a fan favorite, is another candidate for this position next season. He has raw talent on both ends and really showed it this summer.
He is still growing as a player, but he could eventually be pretty good in the NBA. Once he gets used to the speed of the game, Zhou has all the tools needed to dominate. He has strong defensive instincts, an improving 3-point shot, height and more. One more year in the G League might be beneficial for Zhou, but he could prove me wrong and win this job out of training camp.
No third center
When Tarik Black wasn’t fantastic for the Rockets, the team eventually kind of ditched the third center position. Instead, they decided to play small and put someone like P.J. Tucker at the center position when needed. That lineup worked beautifully, especially in the playoffs.
Ryan Anderson is another guy that saw himself get some backup “center” minutes last year, stretching the floor when necessary. If he is still in Rockets red next season, he could see more of that when Nene sits.
The Rockets have the versatility to play many of their players in a non-traditional center role. The third center position might be filled by one of the guys mentioned previously, but they could not get as many minutes as the players that held their role in years past. We may see more small ball than ever before for Houston, and it should be fun to watch.
We are (not so) quickly approaching the regular season, Red Nation. Hang in there!