Why Jalen Green needs to be paired with Christian Wood
This is what makes Wood such an excellent pairing for Green. Wood is an elite shooter for a center, which helps open up the middle of the court for Green drives. This play is a perfect example of how Wood helps to open up the floor for perimeter players.
The end of the play shows Wood’s ability to hit threes, but the first part is what really matters. Nikola Vucevic vacates the paint to make sure Wood doesn’t have an open pick-and-pop opportunity. He then has to wait for a half-second more to slide over to help on Armoni Brook’s drive. If Brooks had the burst that Green possesses he would have had an open dunk or an and-one.
The difference between a dunk and a kick-out comes down to milliseconds and the mere threat of Wood’s 3-pointer is what makes all the difference. Wood’s ability to space the floor is not the only benefit he’ll provide for Green.
An oft-overlooked trait of NBA centers is their ability to stretch the floor vertically. Players who possess the ability to go up and catch lobs in the pick-and-roll bend defenses inward.
This is a simple screen and roll action from Wood. Both Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo follow Wood as he darts to the rim and it creates a wide-open three for Eric Gordon.
This is an example of how Wood’s vertical threat can open up driving lanes. Bobby Portis is forced to follow Wood giving Gordon an open lane to the rim. For most players, their impact off the ball is far more important than their impact on it.
The only question is who will have to head to the bench to make room for Green. In his first game back, expect Armoni Brooks to head to the bench and the Rockets run with a lineup of Gordon, Green, Wood, Jae’Sean Tate, and Garrison Mathews.
However, with Kevin Porter Jr expected to come back days later, the Rockets will have another difficult decision to make. Those are the tough questions that Stephen Silas has to answer, but the team is in a better place than it was a month ago.
The new-look Rockets have built an offensive environment that should help Jalen Green get cleaner looks. Through his first 18 games, Green’s 14 points per game masked incredible inefficiency. A 38.2-percent field goal percentage and 27.8-percent shooting from 3-point range will tank any offense.
With better spacing on the perimeter and vertically Green should see his efficiency, and thus his scoring, improve substantially. Jalen Green, like most rookies, had a rough introduction to the NBA. With cozier confines, he should start to fulfill the promise that made him the second overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.