Houston Rockets quarter season report card 

N.B. Lindberg
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C. 3 & D. . Jabari Smith Jr.

Jabari Smith Jr. has had a rough start to his NBA career. While many have focused on his poor 3-point shooting, I’m not all that worried about it. He’s at 33.6% for the season, but that is heavily weighed down by a three-for-22 slump over a five-game span. In his remaining 12 games, he has shot 38.1% from three. 

However, Smith’s 36.8% shooting on 2-pointers is a significant concern. There’s no way to beat around the bush. He may never be able to score within the arc at an acceptable rate. At 6’10, with a good jumper, there’s still hope, but he has dug an incredibly deep hole. 

On defense, Smith has been as advertised. His metrics don’t jump off the screen, but he has rebounded well, defended the perimeter admirably, and been a surprising rim deterrent. All the traits are still there for Smith to become an excellent 3-and-D player, but he hasn’t done anything to project superstardom. There’s a chance that he’ll become a star in his role, which is a great outcome for a third-overall pick, but not the one fans imagine. 

C. Point Guard 102. . Kevin Porter Jr.

In year two of the Kevin Porter Jr. point guard experience, he has done well to answer questions about his future positional home, in that he’s clearly not a quality starting point guard. I’ve heard all of the apologists’ go-to’s: “He’s young, he’s just started learning the position, he needs a real rim runner, he could actually play small forward.” Just stop it. Kevin Porter Jr. is a combo guard, and that’s fine. 

Porter gets a C because he’s taking the wrong class, which isn’t his fault. His efficiency is depressed because he’s being asked to do things he isn’t very good at, namely being an offensive engine. He isn’t a decisive or consistent enough passer, he over dribbles to nowhere, and he lacks the top-tier burst necessary to bend defenses inward. 

However, Porter is great on catch-and-shoot opportunities, is a fine secondary playmaker, and can create inefficient shots whenever he wants, which is actually a very valuable skill late in the shot clock and when running second units. If Porter was taking the NBA-level course of secondary creator or sixth man, I bet he’d be earning a B or an A. But he’s not, which is why he has a C. Also, he cannot play small forward. He’s too small and isn’t a good defender. 

A+. Offensive Engine 101. . Jalen Green

Jalen Green gets an A+ because the Rockets are finally handing the offense over to him, and he’s making rapid improvements. His efficiency has remained steady even as he generates more of his own shots, he’s getting to the line more, and he is now adding value as a passer. There are still a lot of mistakes and inefficiency, but this is offensive engine 101, not advanced superstar walking-talking top-five offense. 

Over Green’s past nine games, he is averaging 22.6 points on 16 field goal attempts and 6.1 assists per game, which is a staggering improvement over his first 11 games, where he averaged 20.8 points on 18.3 field goal attempts and 2.3 assists per game. Green looks on track to be an All-Star as early as next season and could be in the conversation for All-NBA before his rookie deal expires. 

The Rockets chose Green over Evan Mobley in the 2021 draft because they wanted an offensive engine. After a quarter of the way through his sophomore season, he looks well on his way. Green’s ability to consistently improve is impressive and bodes well for his future. The Rockets have a bright future, and it’s primarily because Green is chugging along the tracks toward an elite offensive engine. 

Next. Why Jalen Green's slump is actually a breakout. dark