Stephen Silas proud of development shown by Rockets’ rookies

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At 17-55, the Houston Rockets finished the 2020-21 regular season with the NBA’s worst record. It’s the first time that has happened for the franchise in nearly 40 years (1982-83).

Yet, head coach Stephen Silas still sees plenty of reasons for optimism entering the 2021 offseason. For starters, the record was largely a product of a forced early season trade by superstar guard James Harden coupled with an historic wave of injuries up and down the roster.

Adjusting for context, Houston found what general manager Rafael Stone has referred to as a “young core” of Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr., KJ Martin and Jae’Sean Tate — and many of those players improved as the season progressed. While Wood and Porter weren’t able to finish the season due to ankle injuries, Tate and Martin were on the court in Sunday’s finale at Atlanta, and Silas appreciated their contributions.

In a postgame interview, Silas was asked about the development shown by many of the roster’s younger players. He responded:

Before the game, I kind of went through every guy, and how they have surpassed what anybody thought about them. All the guys that we had in the locker room. Jae’Sean, he should be All-Rookie First Team, to me. He has done so much for this group, on and off the floor, as a rookie. He’s started a bunch of games, and guarded fives, and brought the ball up the floor. He does so many things.

KJ Martin, for me, he could be Most Improved Player. Because at the beginning of the season, I didn’t know if he was going to play at all. And he became someone that was making 3s, and playing good defense and doing a lot. For those guys, they should have confidence going into next season. I’ll make sure that they know… how well they really did.

And then Armoni (Brooks), I assume he still has the record for most 3s made in the first 20 games now of a person’s career. For him to do that, with all these guys who have played in the NBA, he’s the one who has the record. Yeah, I’m proud of those guys and the development that they’ve had.

Tate, Martin and Brooks surpassed what most viewed as reasonable expectations for them as rookies. Tate started 58 of 70 games played, with both figures the highest on the roster. He averaged 11.3 points (50.6% FG), 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 29.2 minutes per game, and he was also one of Houston’s best and most versatile defenders.

Martin averaged 9.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 23.7 minutes, and his 3-point stroke (36.5%) was far better than expected. Meanwhile, Brooks scored 11.2 points in 26.0 minutes per game, and he shot 38.2% from 3-point range — even on very high volume of 7.9 attempts per game.

Tate and Martin are under contract with the Rockets for two and three more seasons, respectively. Brooks is poised to become a restricted free agent this offseason. Assuming they can keep him, all three should be important parts of Houston’s supporting cast in the years ahead.

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