Southwest Notes: VanVleet, Whitmore, Jackson, Pelicans

The Rockets paid a huge price to add Fred VanVleet in free agency. He’s given them an unexpected bonus — a shot-blocking specialist from the backcourt, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle notes.

VanVleet holds the team lead with 41 blocks. He’s fourth among NBA guards in total blocks, though he believes some of those blocks could have been called steals.

“They’re strips, but I’ll take the blocks,” VanVleet said. “I think any deflection is good. I mean, this is probably my lowest activity I’ve had as a defender in a while. Just getting used to Coach’s (Ime Udoka) system. It’s a little bit different than how we played in Toronto. But there’s all different types of defense and rim protection. Whether it’s strips or deflections or making guys uncomfortable, I pride myself in having good hands.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets rookie forward Cam Whitmore was given an invitation to participate in the dunk contest during All-Star weekend but he declined, Feigen reports. Whitmore is willing to participate in future All-Star dunk contests but needs to come up with some creative dunks in the meantime. “I got asked twice for the dunk contest and I said no. I’m waiting until the time comes,” he said. “I don’t see myself as a dunker. I don’t have anything up my sleeve right now. But in year two, year three, when I establish myself as somebody in this league, yeah I’ll do it.”
  • Did GG Jackson come out too soon to the NBA? One talent evaluator interviewed by Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal feels that way. Jackson was selected with the No. 45 pick by the Grizzlies last June. Rafael Barlowe said Jackson might have cashed in as the top pick in this year’s draft if he had stayed in college. Jackson has scored in double digits in five of his last eight NBA appearances. “If he stayed in this class, he would have had another year of maturity, and the things that he’s doing right now, he’d be doing them on the college level,” Barlowe said. “I don’t think there would be anybody better.”
  • The Pelicans haven’t proven themselves against top-level competition, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes. This month, they have faced the Clippers, Nuggets, Suns, Thunder and Bucks and lost those matchups by an average of 18 points. “My biggest feeling about it is that we are capable, but we haven’t given ourselves a chance to win those types of games yet,” coach Willie Green said. “This is good experience for us coming down the stretch. We definitely know we have room for improvement.” New Orleans gave away a 17-point lead to Boston on Monday and lost, 118-112.
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