COMMENTARY | With all the attention focused on Dwight Howard, James Harden, and the recent Omer Asik trade demand situations for the Houston Rockets, it's easy to overlook the fact that they might have found a solution to one of their holes entering the season: the power forward spot.
The Rockets entered training camp with 4 candidates as being the possible starter to begin the season. Both Donatas Motiejunas and Greg Smith started at times a season ago, but Motiejunas was fairly inconsistent throughout the preseason. Smith was hampered by injuries and never got a fair chance to play or practice, as was the case with Terrence Jones, who played in just four preseason games. The most consistent player out of the candidates was Omri Casspi, who really is a small forward by trade but serves as a stretch-4, which is exactly the type of player the Rockets look for at that position.
After experimenting with Howard at power forward, while Asik remained the starting center, coach Kevin McHale inserted Jones into the starting lineup two weeks ago. The second-year forward responded, putting up some impressive numbers, which have been largely overshadowed because of all the drama that has taken place with the player who he replaced in the lineup, Asik.
Since being a part of the starting five on Nov. 13 against the Philadelphia 76ers, Jones is now averaging 15 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 6 games, while shooting over 55 percent from the field. But the individual numbers are just a subplot to the overall play of the team since Jones took over as power forward that has McHale raving about him:
"He's(Jones) playing really well. He's really been big rebounding for us. He's been running well for us. He's got really good hands, he catches and finishes around the basket. … He can do some stuff on the perimeter that keeps the defense more stretched. Terrence has done a lot of good things for us. He's just going to get better."
The Rockets have won 4 out of the 6 games and have led at the end of the first quarter in every game, something that was not happening when Howard and Asik started together. The Rockets have also outscored opponents by an average of 17.9 points per 100 possessions with Jones on the floor since he has become a starter. More important, Jones' presence has fit in exactly how the Rockets envisioned the power forward to be alongside Howard.
In the past 6 games, Howard has averaged 18.2 points and 12 rebounds; the Rockets as a team are scoring 120 points per 100 possessions with both players on the court together. Jones has enough of an outside shot (7 for 13 from behind the 3-point line so far) for opposing players to respect his outside game that helps to create more spacing for Howard to work the low post. He also has the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket when he needs to.
Granted, 6 games is a very small sample size, but Jones' upside is so big that it's hard to not think that McHale and general manager Daryl Morey will give him every opportunity to develop with the Rockets. A lot of it will depend on the Asik situation, and who the Rockets will get in return if he indeed will be moved by the February trade deadline.
The talks before Jones' recent rise was to shop Asik around for a stretch-4, but if he continues to consistently produce at this rate, then getting a power forward in return won't be a necessity for the Rockets.
Michael Ma covers the Houston Rockets as an editor for Rockets blog Space City Scoop, and as a columnist for Rocketssocial.com. He's been a basketball junkie since the Illegal Defense rule was still in effect. You can follow Michael on twitter @RealMichaelMa.
- Sports & Recreation
- Houston Rockets
- Terrence Jones
- Dwight Howard
- Omer Asik