The addition of Fred VanVleet provides a major upgrade as the Rockets try to move up the standings after three years of rebuilding, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic says in a discussion with Kelly Iko about the team’s prospects. Vecenie notes that VanVleet will be a reliable leader for Houston, which gave about 2,000 backcourt minutes last season to Daishen Nix, TyTy Washington and Josh Christopher.
The Rockets had been using Kevin Porter Jr., who is away from the team due to assault charges, as their point guard even though it’s not his natural position. Vecenie expects improvement just from having a true leader on the court, even though he views VanVleet as the league’s 12th- to 15-best point guard.
Vecenie adds that VanVleet’s shooting was down last season, but it was notably better after the Raptors traded for Jakob Poeltl to give them an effective screener. VanVleet can hit threes, make the right decisions on offense and challenge opponents on defense, and Vecenie notes that those are all areas where the team needed to improve.
There’s more from Houston:
- Vecenie also likes the addition of Dillon Brooks, but believes his four-year contract might be “a bit aggressive” because of the potential of Tari Eason. Vecenie says Eason was “phenomenal” at Summer League, and there’s a chance that he’ll be better than Brooks by the end of the season. Vecenie observes that Eason provides the same type of high-energy defense as Brooks, but without the questionable shot selection that can bog down offenses. At 40.2%, Brooks had the fourth-worst effective field goal percentage in the league last season.
- Coach Ime Udoka talked about the need for Brooks to play under control after he was ejected early in Tuesday’s preseason opener (video link). “You have to learn to control your emotions and stay in the game, Udoka said. “You can’t get yourself taken out in the first quarter.” Brooks said his reputation was responsible for the ejection, but referees determined that his low blow to Pacers center Daniel Theis was intentional.
- Free agent additions Jeff Green and Reggie Bullock are expected to make their debuts with the Rockets on Thursday night in New Orleans, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Green signed with Houston this summer to be a veteran leader after winning a title in Denver last season, while Bullock was added last week for outside shooting help after the Spurs waived him.