The key to Rockets’ Jae’Sean Tate’s instant success as a rookie

Jae'Sean Tate #8 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Jae'Sean Tate #8 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The signing of Jae’Sean Tate was one of the least discussed moves of the Houston Rockets‘ offseason, for a number of reasons. For one, many weren’t familiar with Tate, as he had never played in the NBA, and secondly the Rockets made much bigger moves, like trading Russell Westbrook for John Wall and signing Christian Wood to a three-year contract worth $42 million.

The Rockets also ushered in Rafael Stone and Stephen Silas to replace outgoing GM Daryl Morey and coach Mike D’Antoni, which was a move that had a pivotal impact on Tate’s career, as the former duo wasn’t very keen on the idea of young, developmental players. The best proof of this is the fact that the Rockets were consistently one of the oldest teams in the league under the former duo.

Although Tate may have been unheralded, he’s been one of the few bright spots on a Rockets team that ranks second to last in the Western Conference with a record of 13-36. The Rockets rookie forward has averaged 10.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists, while shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from 3-point range, destroying the expectations that were cast upon him.

So what’s been the key to Tate’s instant success? After all, it’s not normal for an undrafted rookie to make an impact like Tate has, as most undrafted rookies find it hard to play even 15 minutes per night, unlike Tate, who averages nearly 29 minutes per game.

The key to Jae’Sean Tate’s instant success with the Houston Rockets

Rockets assistant coach Will Weaver, who was the head coach of the Sydney Kings in 2019-20 which Tate played for, recently joined Rockets All-Access and explained how Tate’s lone season in the National Basketball League overseas served as the catalyst for his success with the Houston Rockets.

“Jae’Sean humbled himself and worked to try to understand what were the things he needed to do to achieve his dream. Over the course of the year with us, he was First-Team All-League, and improved almost every area of his game.

He brought the ball up alot for us, he posted, which wasn’t something we did alot as a team, but he was uniquely capable of scoring and passing out of the post. And you see the defensive versatility. We switched alot and he matched up on some of the best players in the league.”

Although Tate has blossomed on the court, Weaver elaborates that the maturity off the court has been equally impressive, and can also be attributed to his time in Australia.

“I think even more understanding what being a pro looks like and the nutrition and the recovery. Learning the acumen that you have to have to play at the highest level.”

Weaver also added that he was asked by Rockets general manager Rafael Stone if he knew Tate would be as good as he’s turned out to be.

Tate was regarded as one of the most NBA-ready players in last year’s class of NBL players and has been described by Rockets coach Stephen Silas as a valuable player, due to his versatility, which allows him to play any position on the floor. Although we’re only 49 games into his career, Tate has proven to be a building block for the Rockets’ future, which is important considering the rebuilding state that the team currently finds themselves in.

Tate’s contract was quite a bargain for a player that would easily be a lottery pick if the 2018 NBA Draft were held again, as he’s under contract through 2023, with the below contract terms:

  • 2020-21: $1.44 million
  • 2021-22: $1.52 million (non-guaranteed)
  • 2022-23: $1.78 million (team option)

Tate has gained valuable experience this season, and will only continue to get better as he gains more experience, but it’s clear that Rockets GM Rafael Stone got a hidden gem in the rookie 25-year-old forward.

Next. Why the Rockets didn't want Simmons or LeVert