Stephen Silas explains challenge of setting a lineup for Rockets

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

With John Wall sitting out, big man Christian Wood is clearly the most accomplished veteran player returning to the Houston Rockets. Yet, through 15 games, the 26-year-old’s numbers have slipped across the board relative to last season, including overall shooting (51.4% to 44.2%), 3-point shooting (37.4% to 31.6%), and free throws (63.1% to 51.6%).

Combine that decline with an extremely young roster surrounding Wood, and the 13-game losing streak for Houston (1-14) is understandable.

Assuming Wood is healthy — and he’s played in every game without ever being listed on Houston’s injury report, so he certainly appears to be — the most plausible reason for the production decline could be a change in positions. After playing primarily at center in 2020-21, Wood has shifted to power forward in 2021-22 in a two-big starting lineup alongside offseason signing Daniel Theis. As a forward, Wood has had fewer pick-and-roll opportunities, and he doesn’t have quite the same athletic advantage over the defenders who are now covering him.

Yet, the solution for head coach Stephen Silas isn’t easy. In Wednesday’s loss at Oklahoma City, Silas tried to downsize by moving Wood to center and using Danuel House Jr. in the starting lineup in place of Theis. But with Theis playing as a reserve, that left only five minutes for rookie big man Alperen Sengun, who was taken at No. 16 overall in the 2021 NBA draft and is one of Houston’s most promising young players.

In comments at Friday’s practice to Houston Chronicle beat writer Jonathan Feigen, Silas elaborated on the lineup conundrum:

I’m not sure right now. If we continue to play smaller with C-Wood at the five, that leaves me with three centers. Finding time for all three makes it more difficult. If I want C-Wood to play a good amount of minutes at the five, it’s hard to play Al-P (Sengun) and D.T. (Theis) together. That kind of limits where I can stick guys in.

In the long run, the solution could come via trade. As an offseason signing, Theis is eligible to be traded on Dec. 15. The Rockets might also consider trading Wood, if they aren’t sold on keeping him long-term, since he’s currently in the second-to-last season of his contract — and he’d have more value with two seasons left on his deal than one.

But for now, unless Wood shows growth at power forward, there are no easy answers. The Rockets can make Wood more comfortable by playing him at center, but that makes it more difficult to find ample playing time for Sengun, whose development is a clear priority.

On the other hand, Houston could fully prioritize Sengun’s development — perhaps by even starting him at center — but that might come at a cost of Wood’s production, and perhaps his eventual trade value.

The problems are clear, but the solution is not.

Related

Rockets shift Christian Wood to center, start Danuel House Jr. over Daniel Theis

Rockets must develop on-court chemistry to end losing streak

List

2020-21 Rockets roster review, offseason outlook: Christian Wood