The Houston Rockets have been yearning for more productivity out of their bench players, but could the answer be right in front of Mike D’Antoni’s eyes?
It’s well-known that the Houston Rockets are limited with regards to scorers on the team, with the exception of James Harden, Danuel House and Russell Westbrook. It’s even more apparent that the Rockets desperately need more firepower when the second unit comes on the floor, as the Rockets have seemed devoid of scoring when they turn to their reserves. Part of this is certainly due to the injuries of Gerald Green and Eric Gordon, which can’t be overlooked either.
But the Rockets have had to stagger the minutes of Harden and Westbrook just to make sure one of them is on the floor with the second unit, and many of the times Harden rests, the offense can’t buy a basket. But the solution to the lack of productivity from the second unit could already be on the roster: Chris Clemons.
Clemons, the Rockets’ 22-year-old rookie, has had limited opportunities to show his ability, as he’s only playing 8.9 minutes per game. Although Clemons has only been able to show a limited sample size, he’s shooting 41.9 percent from 3-point range, which is third-best on the team. To put that in perspective, the only two players shooting better than him on the team are starters P.J. Tucker and Danuel House. In addition, Clemons is shooting 46.2 percent from the field, which is better than former MVP’s James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
The North Carolina native is also averaging 21.4 points per 36 minutes, which is third on the team behind only Harden and Westbrook. All of this begs the question of why he isn’t getting more minutes. During Saturday night’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, Clemons’ scoring ability was on display as he had 16 points on 10 shots in only 15 minutes of play, which would be an obvious boost for the Rockets on a nightly basis.
It’s been a pleasant surprise for a rookie guard to be this efficient and to be able to fire away from deep to the tune of nearly 42 percent, yet coach Mike D’Antoni hasn’t fully turned to Clemons, which could be part of the reason why the bench has fared so poorly without Harden on the floor. But even when Harden is on the floor, the opposing defenses have decided to send multiple defenders at him due to his offensive brilliance.
This has been part of the issue for the Rockets’ second unit as it pertains to scoring, as they don’t have many shooters who can catch-and-shoot off the kick-out from Harden. Clemons could help in this area as well, as 66.7 percent of his 3-point field goals have been assisted this season.
During the 2019-20 season, there have been three games in which Clemons has played 15 minutes or more, and the Rockets have gone 2-1 in those games. Even more than that is the fact that Clemons is averaging 17 points per game during those games while shooting 57.9 percent from the field and a scorching 50 percent from downtown.
Hopefully, Clemons’ play has been getting noticed by D’Antoni more, because he could easily be the solution to the Houston Rockets’ lack of scoring in the second unit.