How Jalen Green will fit with the new-look Rockets

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Jalen Green, Daniel Theis, Houston Rockets
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Houston Rockets: Jalen Green can't perform with two-centers

It shouldn’t be a surprise that a two-center lineup was ineffective in 2021, but the lineup appeared to significantly hamper Jalen Green. Prior to the shift, in the one game where the Rockets eschewed a two-center starting unit, Green scored 21 points and posted an offensive rating of 121. 

Digging into the on-off numbers, it’s clear that Green and the Rockets are at their best when he shares the court with Wood. The Rockets have an offensive rating of 105.5 when Green and Wood are on the court without Theis and/or Sengun. While that is nowhere near an elite offense, the other combinations have been disastrous. 

The combination of just Green and Theis has an offensive rating of 87.3, and the rookie pairing of Green and Sengun comes in at 93.5. Adding another center still sees the Rockets' post sub 100 point offensive ratings. 

The simple answer is that Green operates best when he has ample spacing. This shouldn’t be a surprise, just about every NBA player benefits from improved spacing, but there’s reason to believe that Green is especially affected by a lack of it. 

Green is one of the most explosive players in the league, but he is also one of the lightest. With the NBA’s early-season emphasis on allowing more physicality, Green, for the first time in his life, faced competition capable of bumping him from his spot. 

Green can blow by his defender, jump over the help, and dance his way to open looks, but he cannot bulldoze his way to the rim. The less spacing he has on the perimeter, the more bodies he has to fight through to get good looks.