The Houston Rockets have signed PF/C Kenny Wooten to a two-way contract. The 22-year-old is one of the most entertaining shot-blockers in professional basketball.
The Houston Rockets have been busy rounding out their roster with their signing of Kenny Wooten to a two-way contract. The Rockets snagged the 6’8 forward off of waivers after he spent last season with the New York Knicks G-League affiliate.
Wooten, while not much of a threat on offense, averaged a whopping 3.6 blocks in only 24.9 minutes per game, for a per 36-minute average of 5.3 blocks. The Rio Grande Vipers are set to have one of the most exciting shot blockers in all of professional basketball.
What Wooten lacks in height he makes up for with bounce and anticipation. Most NBA teams, due to his height, view him as a power forward, but the Rockets believe that he projects as an NBA quality small-ball center.
Wooten is on a two-way contract because as much as his blocking prowess portends defensive potential he is still not a disciplined enough defender to be trusted for long stretches. He would hunt highlight-reel blocks instead of simply contesting shots and it led to him racking up fouls at an alarming clip.
He averaged 3 fouls per game in his 24.9 minutes of game time, which equates to 5.8 fouls per 48 minutes. If Wooten is going to make it in the NBA as a defense-first player this is an area he’ll have to improve upon dramatically.
While Wooten’s defensive upside is tantalizing, his lack of an offensive game is why he was available off of waivers. Last season he only averaged 7.7 points per game, although it was on a healthy 65.1-percent shooting.
His ability to finish at the rim is not in question but the concern is that is the extent of his offensive profile. Forwards and centers have to be able to extend defenses out of the paint or be absolutely elite at defense to stick in the league.
Wooten took one 3-pointer last season and hit 57.8-percent of his free-throws. Numbers like that make it unlikely he’ll ever be a credible threat beyond the arc, which will limit his game to rim-running.
Wooten’s offensive limitations will become moot if he can continue to hone his defensive potential. Players with his shot-blocking ability rarely possess the mobility he flashes.
On the defensive end, he shows a similar ability to what Robert Covington did for the Rockets last season. There is a real chance that at his peak he’ll be able to credibly defend the paint and the perimeter.
Wooten is a good value pick-up for the Rockets because of how he fits a unique need. Even if small-ball isn’t the only system the Rockets run, Wooten provides organizational depth as a small-ball center.
With the growth of the G-League, smart organizations are taking a page out of baseball’s book and stockpiling as much transferable talent as possible. Having players in the G-League that fit specific needs for your NBA team is smart team-building and in essence, expands your NBA roster.
Wooten likely won’t feature much in the NBA this season as he continues to iron out his game. However, if the Rockets once again decide to feature small-ball lineups heavily then Wooten is great depth to have.
Will Wooten ever be an NBA starter? That remains unlikely but he extends the Rockets bench at a position that is difficult to fill. Even if Wooten languishes in the G-League, he’ll provide the people of Edinburg jaw-dropping blocks along with a few souvenirs.