The improvements and growth made by young players such as Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell have been vital to the Houston Rockets’ success this season.
By now you’re probably sick of hearing about the career redemption of James Harden and Mike D’Antoni. Well, unless you’re a Houston Rockets fan coming off one of the most frustrating seasons in recent memory.
Regardless, what you probably haven’t heard enough about is the young talent the Rockets have in their locker room, led by Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell.
With Dekker playing only six minutes last season, he is essentially a rookie in the league, while Harrell is a fairly inexperienced sophomore, having played in 39 games last season.
Their development as rotation pieces is not only crucial to the Rockets’ success this season, but is also very promising for the next couple of seasons.
While the numbers for both players are modest on paper, their contributions at various stretches of the season were crucial for the team.
When you consider that both will be making less than $2 million next season (with Dekker having a team option for $2.7 million in 2018), their development is a welcome sight for general manager Daryl Morey as he explores free agency.
Sam Dekker’s promising play during his “rookie” season has already led many Rockets fans to believe he is the future at small forward for the Rockets.
Although Dekker has played 85 percent of his minutes at power forward so far this season, he can certainly be an above-average starting small forward with his diverse skill set and game.
While Dekker is only shooting 33 percent on three-pointers this season, his form makes it easy to believe he will develop to at least average on such shots. He has already shown that you can’t leave him open from behind the arc:
Per-36 minutes, Dekker is averaging 13.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game on 47.6 percent shooting from the field. Dekker is also an above-average rebounder for his position and very aware on when to cut during half court offense sets.
After a very frustrating rookie season for Dekker, he is showing flashes of why he was the 18th pick in the 2015 draft.
Montrezl Harrell’s rise is frankly, unexpected. Many people (including myself) were high on Harrell coming in to the 2015 draft and were very excited when the Rockets took him with the 32nd pick due to the frantic energy he plays with on the court.
However, no one quite expected him to make this much of a jump in his second season.
Harrell is posting 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game per-36 minutes, all while shooting 64.6 percent from the field. Harrell’s advanced numbers are even more impressive, as he owns a 19.4 PER, 3.4 WS, and 1.3 box plus-minus.
The question with Harrell is what his true position is moving forward. Due to his lack of shooting, he is an undersized center in the Rockets’ spread offense system. However, for other teams he is more likely to be a future option at power forward due to his size.
The other question with Harrell is how the Rockets front office truly views him. While both Dekker and Harrell have shown impressive stretches of play this season, Dekker should be the young player the Rockets protect the most.
Harrell simply finds himself in tough situation in Houston, having the 22-year-old Clint Capela in front of him at center for the future.
Meanwhile, Dekker looks slated to take over the starting small forward role in as soon as two years when the then-32-year-old Trevor Ariza‘s contract expires.
Regardless, the Rockets are in a good position when it comes to young talent on their roster.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference