Houston Rockets: Best candidates for NBA awards
Most Improved Player: James Ennis
If this were a year ago, Clint Capela would be the obvious choice for Most Improved Player. Last season, Capela finished second in voting for Most Improved Player behind Indiana’s Victor Oladipo. Capela will take another step forward next season and he could get some All-Star votes, but the player that has the best chance to win Most Improved Player on the Rockets is James Ennis.
After losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, Houston became quite thin at the wing position. Two of their best and most versatile perimeter defenders are gone and they needed to quickly find replacements. James Ennis is at least part of the answer to Houston’s hole at forward.
Houston’s starting lineup isn’t set in stone yet, as Mike D’Antoni hasn’t decided if Carmelo Anthony will start. If D’Antoni decides that Melo can best help the team as a reserve, then Ennis will likely get the nod to start, but Ennis will still get plenty of playing time either way.
He’ll be particularly useful against teams like Golden State and Boston, who have plenty of wings and perimeter players that can score at will. Anthony cannot effectively defend the likes of Kevin Durant or LeBron James at this point in his career, which means Ennis will have a big role on the Rockets.
Ennis averaged just 7.1 points per game last season, but his scoring totals could go up next season. He’s going to play at least 20 minutes per game and he will have a ton of open looks with all of the defense’s attention on Chris Paul and James Harden.
Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute weren’t really volume 3-point shooters earlier in their careers, but they all averaged career-highs in 3-pointers made in Houston. Ennis doesn’t shoot a lot of 3-pointers, but he has shot the deep ball at a 35.9 percent clip for his career, so he could become an effective shooter for the Rockets. Ennis has never found a role on a team where he could thrive since the beginning of his NBA career, but Houston could very well be that place.
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