The Houston Rockets were eager to upgrade their roster in free agency, but an unsuccessful free agency period makes the prospect of running it back next season increasingly likely.
The Lakers, Clippers, Blazers and Jazz all have enough talent now to compete for Western Conference supremacy, the Nuggets’ subtle addition of Jerami Grant will only make them stronger and the five-time reigning conference champions will still be mighty with a new-look squad. The Houston Rockets may not have added another marquee name like they had hoped, but the low key re-signing of Danuel House might be their ace in the hole.
House has had quite the journey since going undrafted in 2016. The 26-year-old played one lone minute for the Washington Wizards in his rookie year, 23 games for the Phoenix Suns in year two, has dominated in the G-League and pre-season, had a brief stint on the Golden State Warriors’ roster before being cut prior to the season starting, and then a confusing season with Houston last year marred by complex contract negotiations.
There are more details of House’s treacherous journey around the NBA – especially the contract drama in Houston last year – but none of them are important. All that matters now is House has finally settled in Houston with a three-year deal worth $11 million, and he can focus on playing basketball instead of job security.
The contenders built by both tenants of The Staples Center this off-season highlight Houston’s need for a three-and-D wing more than their rivalry with the Golden State Warriors did. Houston failed recruiting Jimmy Butler, and any other free agents to fill their need at the wing positions, but House fits the system perfectly on both ends of the floor and re-signing him may have been their best roster move to combat this issue. House won’t be Jimmy Butler, but the Rockets don’t need him to be.
Next: Last season
House last year
In his 39 regular season games for Houston last season, House averaged 9.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1 assist per game while connecting on 41.6% of his three-pointers (all career highs). Per Basketball-Reference, he took 92.4% of his 252 field goal attempts from either three-point range or within three feet of the basket. He thrived sharing the court with two of the best passers in the league, as 91.9% of his threes and 77.3% of his field goals inside three were assisted; the stats show House isn’t a star, but is a perfect fit in Houston under Mike D’Antoni.
While his main threat offensively for the Rockets is and will continue to be his shooting, he is more than capable at passing and putting the ball on the floor. He has proven he is a solid all-around offensive player at G-League and Summer League level, and he has shown flashes on the Rockets too.
In 60 career G-League games House has averaged 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.6 blocks while shooting 45% from the field on 13.2 attempts per game and 36.8% from three on 7.3 attempts per game.
If he can continue to develop his game, more offensive options will open up for Houston off his cuts, drives, and extra swing passes. He has a great sense for playing into the Rockets game plan of scoring either at the basket or from three, and he looks at his best when he is using all of his tools on the perimeter, not just his catch-and-shoot three.
Next: His defense
House is a growing defender too, and while he isn’t the elite scrapper and hustler Houston have had in the past from guys like Trevor Ariza and Pat Beverley – and currently in PJ Tucker – he is versatile and disciplined in keeping his assignment from scoring.
Per nba.com’s advanced defensive tracking stats, House defended 17 players for at least 20 possessions last season; among those 17 were Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Derrick White, Mike Conley, Jerami Grant, Bradley Beal, Jayson Tatum and JaMychal Green. From that group you can see his versatility to defend point guards through to power forwards, and his willingness to change his defensive role on a game to game basis to help the team.
(Note: all of these defensive stats should be taken with a large grain of salt as they are imperfect.)
In a smallish sample size from last season, he proved that he can keep his assignment off the scoreboard, too. House did a great job on of his most frequent assignments, and the ones he struggled against didn’t dominate him by any means. His most frequent assignment was Klay Thompson (41 possessions) and he scored just four points on 2/6 shooting. The only player to score double digits on House was Giannis Antetokounmpo – a clear mismatch – who scored 13 points, but only six of which came from field goals.
A deeper dive into nba.com’s matchup stats show a positive, albeit imperfect trend for House’s defense. Houston don’t need him to be an all-defensive level talent, nor do they need him to be the best defender on the team, but his versatility to switch against screens and guard players of most positions and sizes showcases his importance to Houston.
Next: On-off splits
Perhaps the best sign of optimism is House’s on-off splits from the regular season. Houston’s effective field goal percentage rose by 2.3% with him on the court and they posted a 120.8 offensive rating compared to 114.7 when he wasn’t; rebound, assist and turnover rates were all better with him on the court too.
Not only were Houston statistically better with House on the court, their opponents were statistically much worse. Opposing teams shot 1.2% worse when he was on the floor, posted a 110.3 offensive rating compared to 111.5 with him on the bench, and turned the ball over with more frequency.
It’s a shame it didn’t translate to the playoffs, but he clearly made the team better; The Rockets went 27-12 when House played, and 10-3 in the games he started.
House plays his role with discipline on both ends of the floor, has more potential to grow, desperately fills a need on the wing, and is locked into a dirt cheap deal for the next three years. He isn’t the big fish the Houston Rockets were hunting, but he can be a good enough complimentary piece to help Houston finally reach the summit.