The Houston Rockets take a chance on Jae’Sean Tate’s potential

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 14: Jae’Sean Tate of the Kings is fouled by Sam Froling of the Hawks as he drives to the basket during the round 20 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the Illawarra Hawks at Qudos Bank Arena on February 14, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 14: Jae’Sean Tate of the Kings is fouled by Sam Froling of the Hawks as he drives to the basket during the round 20 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the Illawarra Hawks at Qudos Bank Arena on February 14, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets have signed Jae’Sean Tate to a three-year contract following his successful stint in the NBL. The 25-year-old guard offers versatility for the Rockets bench.

The Houston Rockets have agreed to a three-year contract with free-agent Jae’Sean Tate.  Tate most recently starred in Oceania’s National Basketball League for Australia based Sydney Kings. The 25-year-old native of Ohio played collegiately at Ohio State before spending two seasons abroad honing his game.

In 2018 Tate went undrafted and a finger injury cost him a chance to showcase his talents in the NBA summer league. Undeterred, he spent a season in Belgium with the Antwerp Giants before he headed to the more competitive NBL.

Tate’s season-long stint with the Sydney Kings saw unusual production for a 6’5 guard. In 28 games he averaged 16.4 points and 6 rebounds a game on a league-best 65.8-percent shooting.

That statistical profile is reminiscent of a frontcourt player, not someone who is listed as a guard. Tate is extremely strong and athletic which allowed him to absorb minutes at power forward and in the backcourt while playing in Australia.

The combination of size and speed that Tate possesses portends a bright future as an above-average on-ball defender across multiple positions. Don’t be surprised if early on in his career the Rockets have him mark players half a foot taller than him.

Tate’s positional versatility is likely what drew the Rockets to him. Players who can credibly play in both the backcourt and frontcourt are prized commodities in NBA team building.

A player with PJ Tucker’s profile, as someone who can guard 1-4, represents Tate’s ultimate upside. However, reaching those heights will be dependent on how he rounds out the rest of his game.

The question with Tate is if his 3-point shot will ever be good enough to keep defenses honest. Throughout his four-year college career, he only shot 27.7-percent on 3-pointers and 55.5-percent on free-throws.

Collegiate free-throw shooting is the most reliable predictor of NBA 3-point shooting, which doesn’t bode well for Tate’s development behind the arc. However, in the NBL he hit 37.3-percent of his 3-pointers in the regular season before scorching the nets in the playoffs to the tune of 45-percent from three on 3.3 attempts per game.

Unfortunately, Tate’s struggles from the free-throw line followed him to Australia. He converted 59.8-percent of his regular-season free-throws but he did experience a bump in the playoffs when he hit 70.4-percent from the charity stripe.

If the Rockets get playoff Jae’Sean then they’ll have found another diamond in the rough. In all likelihood, they’ll get a player that is slightly between the college and NBL versions of Tate.

Tate only attempted 51 3-pointers in 28 games last season. If he had hit 17 threes, instead of 19, his season average would drop from 37.3-percent to 33.3-percent. Tate did well in his small sample, but until the Rockets get more information on him his true 3-point ability will remain unknown.

The Rockets have a project on their hands in Jae’Sean Tate. His ability to finish and play bigger than his 6’5 height would suggest are a great starting point for any player.

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How his 3-point shot develops will go a long way in determining his potential. He has slowly made progress as a shooter but for him to garner serious game time he’ll have to make sizeable improvements.

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