The ugly truth is that the Houston Rockets have been far better when Kevin Porter Jr and Jalen Green are not on the court. (If you want the details of the team's struggles I suggest you read the article below.)
The Rockets playing ineffective basketball when Green and Porter play together shouldn't be a surprise. They both incredibly young and inexperienced players. The duo have been thrust into the NBA fire and they've been burnt. There's a long list of Hall of Famers and All-Stars who suffered a similar fate.
The Rockets are noticeably better without Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr
When Kevin Porter Jr and Jalen Green have shared the court, the Rockets have an offensive rating of 97.2 points and a defensive rating of 112.9. That would be the worst offensive rating in the league and the bottom five for defensive rating. The Rockets -15.8 net rating with the pair explains much of the team’s early-season struggles.
When neither of the two has been on the court, the Rockets suddenly morph into a very competent team. Their offensive rating jumps to 115.1 points and their defensive rating improves to 108.3. The Rockets' net rating of +6.8 points would be the third-best in the league, a half-point better than the Phoenix Suns.
If the Rockets want the best chance to win every night, they'd trim their minutes and let veterans with more polished skillsets take the reins. When the pair have shared the court the Rockets have played like the worst team in the league.
However, there is ample evidence that pair will turn it around, and turn it around this season. These are three easy improvements that should get the Rockets back on track when Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr play.
3 Areas For Improvement
1. Luck will change
The first area for improvement is luck. Teams have very little control over how well their opponents shoot 3-pointers, and when Green and Porter are on the court, teams have shot 7.2-percent better from beyond the arc.
The difference in opponent 3-point shooting explains close to 8 points of net rating for the Rockets’ +22.6 net rating without Green and Porter. When their opponent's 3-point shooting normalizes, the Green and Porter lineups won’t be good, but they won’t look so far off the pace.
2. Kill the Two Big Lineup
The next area for improvement is completely ditching the dual big lineups that the Rockets rode to a 1-16 start. Fortunately, Stephen Silas already axed those in favor of one-center lineups, and it not so coincidentally coincided with their seven-game winning streak.
Green and Porter are not yet credible 3-point threats and their best offensive attribute is their ability to penetrate off the dribble. With two bigs sharing the court the paint was often cramped. Without a consistent jumper to fall back on, the pair were left with one of two bad choices. Pull up from distance or drive into the forest of NBA frontcourt players.
With Garrison Mathews, Armoni Brooks, and Eric Gordon getting more game time and the end of the two-big lineup, the court should open up for Green and Porter when they return from injury.
3. Give them Time
The final area for improvement is improvement. Kevin Porter Jr has been playing point guard in the NBA for around 40 games and Jalen Green is a 19-year-old rookie. They were always going to be bad to start the season.
The start of Green’s career has been very similar to those of score-first guards that turned it around in the second half of their rookie season and eventually made All-Star teams.
Porter, after a brutal start, has shown significant signs of improvement as a playmaker once the Rockets ditched the two big lineups and surrounded him with more shooters. Over his first 14 games, he averaged 5.1 assists and 4.2 turnovers. In the five games he has played since the switch, he has averaged 7.8 assists and only 3.4 turnovers. If the Rockets give them time to hone their craft, they'll reap the rewards for their patience.
Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr aren't going to suddenly lead the Rockets to the playoffs, but they also won't lead them on another 15 game losing streak. They've made noticeable progress as the season has gone on, and so have the Rockets.
The Rockets made a mistake early in the season. They handed the team over to two inexperienced guards and then played them in lineups that accentuated their weakness and didn't play to their strengths. With better luck, lineups, and a little time the Green-Porter backcourt should start to be part of the solution and not the problem in Houston.