NBA

Why Chet Holmgren’s season-ending injury is hurting the Houston Rockets

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It was a roller coaster. After weeks of trade speculation regarding the future of Brooklyn Nets superstar forward Kevin Durant, Nets general manager Sean Marks issued a statement last week essentially saying that management (himself, the head coach Steve Nash and owner Joe Tsai) had met Durant and his agent in Los Angeles and “agreed to go ahead with [their] partnership” with the sole purpose and the collective goal of bringing a title to Brooklyn. That pretty much ends the drama, doesn’t it? Not so fast. I’d be shocked if Durant, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons and co. just merry way from here and stop reeking dysfunction.

Of course, as I’ve been writing since the wheels started falling off (back when former Rockets star James Harden was still with the Nets), this soap opera has extreme relevance to locals given that Houston owns literally Brooklyn’s drafts for the foreseeable future following Harden’s trade in Brooklyn. In 2023, the Rockets own the trade rights to the Nets’ pick, which means that while he won’t just pass on the way the 17th pick did in 2022, if the Nets finish with a higher pick than the Rockets, Houston would have the right to trade their own pick with Brooklyn’s.

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Given that reality, I think there’s a slim chance that last week’s news on Durant will end up being positive for the Rockets. Given the Rockets’ current outlook, it’s highly unlikely there will be a scenario where the Nets end up with a higher draft pick than the Rockets this season. Even if he traded Durant this year, Brooklyn would have targeted packages that would help them stay relevant in the short term. Kicking a trade means an increase in the chances of Irving going to free agency in 2023 and a decrease in trade carry for an older Durant in the future if he renews his trade request in the future . That would mean better picks for the Rockets starting in 2024.

Get well soon, Chet

Very unfortunate news rocked the NBA last week with reports that 2022 second overall pick Chet Holmgren of Oklahoma City will miss his entire rookie season after suffering a broken Lisfranc. The injury was sustained during last weekend’s Jamal Crawford CrawsOver Pro-Am game, presumably during a game in which Holmgren was defending superstar forward LeBron James.

I was delighted to see Holmgren play this season after a performance in the Summer League which saw him show his full range of abilities. Going into the draft, I thought Holmgren had the highest potential among the top three prospects (the other two being Jabari Smith Jr. and Paolo Banchero), but I was hoping the Rockets would avoid him given my fears about to its ability to resist physics. NBA requirements due to its small size. (Yes, I’m still traumatized by former franchise leader Yao Ming’s early retirement due to repeated lower-body injuries throughout his career.) In the end, Houston didn’t had the opportunity to choose Holmgren, given that he had left one spot ahead of the Rockets’ draft selection.

The immediate ramifications for the Rockets are that the Thunder now appear to be far worse than expected, and they, like the Rockets, were already expected to be bad this coming season. That means a big advantage at Tankapalooza 2023, when multiple teams will be vying for the opportunity to select big man Victor Wembanyama with the first overall pick, with the Rockets being among them.

Ode to Rashard Lewis

I’m watching Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals on NBATV and as I write this it’s the second quarter and former Rockets forward Trevor Ariza is separated from Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu as things warm up; the Magic also includes former Rockets Rafer Alston and Dwight Howard.

This game reminds me of the pre-draft comparison I’ve heard time and time again that made little sense to me: that of Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr. to Rashard Lewis. Now, to be sure, Lewis was one of the NBA’s smoothest big shots, ahead of his time in a league where power forwards now routinely camp on the perimeter to space out the floor for their teams. And Smith plans to be that type of player. Similarly, neither player is comfortable putting the ball on the ground and creating a dribble (although Smith seems a little more fluid even at this age than Lewis ever did in his career.)

The big difference, though, is that while Lewis was one of Alief’s top high school prospects, I never once heard him described as anything other than an average defender. On the other hand, Smith should be elite at this end of the field and backed up those projections with his lockdown play in the Summer League. You could argue that Smith’s greatest value will eventually be his defensive versatility.

For his career, Lewis shot 38.6% overall from 3, a clip that if ever achieved by Smith, the Rockets organization will be very happy.



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