The Houston Rockets are in the midst of an epic turnaround. After a 1-16 start that had Stephen Silas on the hot seat, a seven-game winning streak has saved the season and restored Silas’ seat to a more comfortable temperature.
The heroes of the Rockets’ unlikely turnaround, in no particular order, have been Eric Gordon, Jae’Sean Tate, Garrison Mathews, Armoni Brooks, and Christian Wood. However, the Rockets’ starting backcourt of the future, Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr, have hardly been a part of the streak.
Green, amid his best quarter of the season, pulled his hamstring in the first game of the winning streak. Porter featured prominently in the first three games of the streak, but injury limited his minutes in games four and five and he was inactive in games six and seven.
The Green and Porter backcourt had the Rockets headed to the top of the lottery, and with them on the shelf, they’ve literally become an unstoppable juggernaut akin to the ‘96 Bulls and 2017 Warriors. Which raises the question, are the Houston Rockets better without Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr.
Are the Houston Rockets 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 in 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 have 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.
Thus far, when Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr are not on the court, the Rockets have been +22.6 points per 100 possessions better. While the pair have struggled together, it doesn’t capture the full story.
For one, the Rockets have been excellent when Kevin Porter Jr is on the court without Jalen Green. In those 223 minutes, the Rockets have an offensive rating of 113, a defensive rating of 103, and a net rating of +10.
Unfortunately, the Rockets have been abysmal when Green has been on the court. In the 204 minutes Green has played without Porter on the court, the Rockets have an offensive rating of 87.6, a defensive rating of 118.6, and a net rating of -31.
It shouldn't be a surprise that the Rockets are better without Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr on the court. They’re an inexperienced backcourt duo that have been thrust into a bad situation, but it doesn’t matter if the pair doesn’t help facilitate winning.
Their best days are ahead of them, and that’s what this season is for. The Rockets aren’t aiming to be great in 2022. They’re aiming to be great in 2025. The Rockets should want Jalen Green to throw up bricks, and for Kevin Porter Jr to give the ball up as much as he makes a jaw-dropping pass this season.
This team was designed to be bad, and a large part of that was giving two developing players big minutes. Today, the Rockets are better without Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr on the court, but tomorrow they’ll need them to take the franchise forward.