The Houston Rockets have started NBA2K23 Summer League by going 2-1 and have put themselves in a position to make a run at the much vaunted Summer League championship. With the Summer League champions receiving rings this year, there is added incentive to put together a run.
While winning the Summer League would be fun for the fan base, it portends little about the upcoming season. However, these are three takeaways from the Rockets' first three Summer League games that could be crucial for the 2022-23 season.
1. What to make of Daishen Nix’s Shooting
Daishen Nix has had a strong summer league showing. His 12.7 points on 50% shooting and 5.3 assists in 25.5 minutes per game are all strong marks and should see him solidify a bench role with the Rockets this season.
However, Nix has posted curious shooting splits over his first three Summer League games. His 40% 3-point shooting on 5.0 attempts a game is excellent, but his 40% free throw shooting on 3.3 attempts is dismal.
It’s easy and correct to say that it’s three games, but it continues an odd trend that has followed Nix throughout his career. In 2020-21 for the G-League Ignite, Nix shot 17.6% on 3-pointers and 71.4% from the free throw line. In 2021-22 in the G-League, he shot 39.5% from 3-point range and 59.4% from the stripe, and in the NBA, he shot 26.9% from three and 53.3% on free throws.
Nix’s combination of 3-point and free throw efficiency has bounced around from solid to good to abysmal to great, and this Summer League only continues the trend of confusion. If Nix is going to be a long-term NBA player, he’s going to need to be hitting at least 34% of his 3-pointers. And unfortunately for Nix, free throw shooting is a great indicator for future 3-point shooting efficiency.
It’s still only three games, but seeing Nix hit a few more free throws while continuing to hit his threes, would be a great indicator for this upcoming NBA season.
2. Will TyTy Washington Surpass Josh Christopher this Season
Josh Christopher’s Summer League came to an end when the Rockets shut him down due to right hip soreness. His 19.7 points per game in three games led the team, but he still got the fan base in a lather.
Christopher, in 26.8 minutes a game, averaged 16.0 field goal attempts and 8.0 free throw attempts to go with 3.0 assists and 2.3 turnovers. Needless to say, he was looking for his own shot, which would have been fine if his shot was falling, but he only shot 39.7% from the field and 12.5% from 3-point range. Christopher treating Summer League like a shoot-around would be fine if he was expected to carry a heavy scoring load in the regular season, but there’s a chance that he is the fifth guard in the rotation behind Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr, Eric Gordon, Garrison Mathews, and now TyTy Washington.
Washington, as opposed to Christopher, has used Summer League to showcase his utility to the Rockets in the regular season. In his three Summer League games, he has only averaged 8.0 points but 3.0 assists and 0.7 turnovers for an assist to turnover ratio of 4.5:1. The Rockets have more need for a steady distributing point guard next to Jalen Green than they do for another score first guard.
Christopher will likely reign in his shooting when the games become real, but him wasting his three Summer League games to do hero ball cosplay is not a great sign. Washington, on the other hand, has used his Summer League reps to hone the skills that should help him get on the court in the regular season. Don’t be surprised if Washington passes Christopher on the depth chart this season.
3. Tari Eason Looks Legit
The most positive development from the first three games of Summer League has been the play of Tari Eason. The 17th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft has been an all-around sensation. In 27.2 minutes a game, he is averaging 16.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. His efficiency hasn’t been phenomenal, but shooting 46.5% from the field and 33.3% from three are very solid marks for such an unstructured environment.
It’s appearing more and more likely that Eason will go down as one of the steals of the 2022 draft. He’s an excellent defender and has shown that his scoring efficiency from college may translate to the NBA. If he can shoot 35% or better from 3-point range, he’ll force his way into the starting lineup.
Eason looks legit and like a day one starter for the Rockets. His combination of defense, rebounding, and scoring could put him in the running for Rookie of the Year if he gets enough minutes. With no real option at small forward to block him, Eason turning out to be legit could be a massive development in getting the Rockets back on track.
The Rockets play their fourth Summer League game at 8:30 CT on NBATV against the Portland Trail Blazers. Their fifth game has yet to be scheduled, but if they have one of the two best win percentages, they'll play for the Summer League Championship.