Article written by Lachard Binkley (@HTOWN4LIFE40)
The Houston Rockets are less than two days away from their first action in several months. The Rockets will have their first scrimmage on July 24th against the NBA Champions Toronto Raptors. Even though we have not seen basketball since early March one thing remains the same. The Rockets will need their role players to step up for them to advance.
Everyone knows what Russell Westbrook, James Harden, PJ Tucker, and Robert Covington will bring. The question that remains: will the Rockets get enough help from players like Austin Rivers, Ben McLemore? These bench players are essential but two, in particular, are the key for the Houston Rockets: Eric Gordon and Jeff Green. Gordon has been the key for several years and Green — after being sent to NBA exile for most of the season — has quickly emerged as a potential steal for the Rockets.
Jeff Green was on the NBA market for awhile before the Rockets brought Green on for a 10 day contract. After being released by the Utah Jazz ( yes the Rockets bitter rivals) on Dec. 23rd there wasn’t a lot of interest in the veteran forward. His stint with the Jazz was uneventful and from the start Green was not a good fit. In his 30 games with the Jazz Green averaged only 7.8 points and shot a dismal 32.7 from 3-point range. The Rockets after trading away Clint Capela were all in on switchable, multi-positional players and Green was the best player on the market at the time.
Still, expectations were low for Green and the above-mentioned numbers didn’t inspire much confidence. This is the perfect example of not every player is meant for every team. In 10 games with the Rockets, Green is averaging 10.4 points and his shooting from downtown has jumped to 41.2 percent per game. Green has filled in perfectly at the backup center position and gives the Rockets a big off the bench who can spread the floor and still get to the basket on a consistent basis.
If Green can continue his great play the Rockets will have 48 minutes of exceptional production from the small-ball center spot with Green and Tucker filling the niche role.
Eric Gordon has been one of the Rocket’s key players mainly off the bench for a few years now. When he first signed with the Rockets in July of 2016 Gordon was coming off of three disappointing years with the New Orleans Hornets. Gordon has had the highest of highs as in his 2017 3-point championship at All-Star weekend and a great playoff run that same year.
Also, the lowest of lows being at the bottom of several categories while battling injuries for most of this season. Coming into the NBA restart Gordon was shooting his worst percentage from downtown since 2011-12 when he only played nine games shooting 31.9 percent from 3-point range. Before this season Gordon has shot 35.9 or better the three previous years with the Rockets. There is a reason for optimism as Gordon discusses how he is finally healthy:
“I’ve been looking forward to this,” Gordon said. “I just wanted to be healthy so I could be myself. For me, just to focus on basketball and what we do instead of worrying about doing rehab every day before practice, it definitely means a lot.”
Gordon has only played in 34 games this year but when healthy he is the only other Rocket beside Westbrook and Harden who can go for 30 plus points as he demonstrated against the Jazz earlier this year.
Gordon gives you another player who can stretch the court all the way out to 30 feet and gives you another on-ball defender who can handle bigger guards. In 11 postseason games last season, Gordon averaged 17.8 points, making 40 percent of his threes.
Westbrook and Harden are the superstars of the Rockets, but players like Green and Gordon will determine if the Rockets advance in this year playoffs; both provide outside shooting and the ability for instant offense off the bench, something the Rockets sorely lacked for much of the season.
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