Could Chris Clemons be in line for a major role with the Rockets?

Houston Rockets Chris Clemons (Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Chris Clemons (Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With the Houston Rockets in need of a reserve point guard, could Chris Clemons be that missing piece?

It’s no secret that the Houston Rockets are in need of a backup point guard, as they’ve been missing one since the 2020 postseason in the bubble. The Rockets depended on Austin Rivers to fill that role, who disappointed in the postseason, as he averaged 4.8 points on 31.1 percent from the floor and 25.7 percent from long-range.

Rivers recently decided to exercise his player option, as he ultimately landed a three-year deal worth 10 million with the New York Knicks. Rockets general manager Rafael Stone has had a laundry list of priorities this offseason and has taken care of many of them, including adding a fringe star player in Christian Wood, adding a reserve big man in DeMarcus Cousins, and finding ways to identify young talent, such as Mason Jones, Jae’Sean Tate, and Kenyon Martin Jr.

The reserve point guard position remains the primary need on the roster, as the Rockets have yet to select one. But could that person already be on the roster? In other words, could Chris Clemons be that guy?

Is Clemons in line for a major role with the Houston Rockets?

The question is perplexing, simply because we don’t exactly know if he’s ready for such a role. Clemons only played in 33 games and only played 8.8 minutes per game, which isn’t exactly a sizable enough role to get a gauge of what he can do.

There were only three games in 2019-20 in which Clemons played at least 20 minutes and during those games he posted averages of 17 points on 50 percent from the field, in addition to a 44.9 percent 3-point clip. For the season, Clemons averaged 19.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per 36 minutes and made 90.9 percent of his free throws, while hitting 34.6 percent of his threes.

Clemons played 14 games for the Rio Grande Vipers, which is the Rockets’ G-League affiliate, and posted averages of 23.9 points and six assists, while receiving 34.1 minutes per night.

So why didn’t he get more playing time with the Rockets? Surely he would have gotten on the court if he was capable of contributing, right?

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Not exactly, as former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey didn’t exactly see the value in developing young, emerging talent. This was evident in how the Rockets never fully gave Isaiah Hartenstein or Gary Clark an opportunity to take on a large enough role with the franchise, which resulted in both players landing on playoff teams, as Clark landed with the Orlando Magic and Hartenstein recently signed a two-year contract with the Denver Nuggets.

Clemons has flashed his range, as he’s essentially proven to be able to make threes no matter the distance, and he stands to benefit from playing under Stephen Silas, who certainly knows a thing or two about offense. Silas also has a reputation of being able to develop younger prospects, which would seem to bode well for Clemons.

The Rockets are under significant cost constraints due to being hard-capped, and could stand to gain from adding hometown favorite Gerald Green, in addition to another reserve big, in the event that DeMarcus Cousins isn’t fully healthy at the start of the season.

With that being the case, Clemons being ready to take on a major role would be a welcome surprise for Rockets general manager Rafael Stone, as that would allow him to focus his attention and remaining cap space on other areas of need for the team.

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The question remains: is Clemons ready? We’ll find out soon whether he is or not, because he seems in line to get an opportunity to prove it.