Christian Wood leads Rockets past Thunder securing 3rd straight win

Rockets win again! Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets have played incredible in the last three games. Although it’s only a three-game winning streak, the Rockets are making huge adjustments with their spacing and composure. Oklahoma City Thunder coach, Mark Daigneault, says the Rockets are playing with a certain “swag.”

“They are swagging out right now offensively,” said Daigneault. “The last time we played this team they were in the midst of a long losing streak and you could feel that in the game. They have beaten two quality opponents and shot the ball well.”

Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. have led the Rockets with a sense of urgency. Both have dominated at their position. Coach Silas, who was on a suspected hot seat, moved Wood to the center position and took Daniel Theis out of the rotation, which seems to be working. Wood is spacing the floor better in pick-and-roll, transition, and from the perimeter for contested and open shots. Defensively, Wood has been a problem for other teams. In three games, Wood is averaging 24.3 points, 15.7 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per contest. He has been a busy man for the Rockets. As I dive deeper into the analytics, Wood’s has 123.1 offensive and 103.2 defensive rating too.

Hopefully, Wood maintains his great play, as the Rockets face off against three more easier opponents, including the Thunder again before they play the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. Wood is becoming more dominant and confident on the court. His aggression has allowed him to attack the rim off the dribble and create his own shot. Wood is even shooting the three-ball better at 58.3 percent off 4.0 attempts per contest the last three games. He made a huge shot versus the Charlotte Hornets Saturday night.

"He’s playing with a lot more energy than he was prior, and that is a majority of it,” Silas said. “He’s just trying really hard right now, but being able to roll to the rim consistently time after time..."

Wood is showing his versatility on defense, which is guarding 1-5 on the court. Watching him guard players off switches is impressive after he struggled last season. He has protected the rim well too, as that can worry opposing coaches inside the paint. Wood put in some extra time on his footwork and quickness during the offseason, and it’s paying off for the Rockets defensively. He is starting to look like the main anchor on defense.

Porter has taken more command of the offense, as Silas looks pleased. He is calling the offensive sets instead of looking for Silas for the next play. Porter is seeing the court better instead of turning the ball over. He had to sit a few games due to a minor injury but was able to observe while out.

“Just be me. I’ve been trying to be something I’m not,” Porter said. “After that injury, I was able to observe and I came back out and played my game.”

Although he is averaging 4.7 per turnovers per contest, Porter is becoming a better point guard by putting his teammates in position to score. Porter is understanding when to score and pass, which isn’t an easy task at point guard. He is starting to look more aggressive on offense because of the ability to get to the free throw line or attacking the basket. In the last three games, Porter is averaging 16.0 points, 10.7 assists, and 8 rebounds per contest. Versus the Thunder, Porter recorded his first triple-double, which the ending of getting his last rebound was hilarious. Josh Christopher yelled ‘GET THE BALL, GET THE BALL’, as the crowd cheered for Porter. Porter has posted a 120.5 offensive rating the last three games.

Porter is becoming a better on ball defender, as he clamped LaMelo Ball on the last possession in OT Saturday night. He even intercepted the pass on a pick-and-roll action ran by the Thunder. Porter is defending all the elements on defense. Porter is averaging 1.7 steals per game while playing defense. No room is given when Porter plays on-ball defense. Porter has a 103.3 defensive rating, which makes sense because of the tenacity shown.

Another bright spot shown on the Rockets offense is Garrison Mathews. He was picked up on waivers from the Washington Wizards before the season started. The Rockets assigned him to the Rio Grande Vipers before calling him up to play. So far, Mathews has looked like a professional sniper for the Rockets. He is a reliable kick-out shooter with a green light to shoot a highly contested shot. He doesn’t need much space to take a shot anywhere on the court and is a very patient shooter. Mathews is fixing the Rockets problems when it comes to needed outside shooting along with Armoni Brooks.

While starting for the Rockets and getting 32.7 minutes within this three-game winning streak, Mathews is averaging 17.0 points per game and shooting the three-ball at 50 percent and has a 77.1 true shooting and 76.7 effective field goal percentage. He deserves to be a starter because he defends, cuts to the basket, and drives. His versatility is huge for the Rockets. Mathews continues to blossom and makes shooting look effortless, as he is an incredible catch-and-shoot weapon at 58.3 percent the last three games.

The Rockets should go on a seven-game winning streak along with the three games they won already. When Jalen Green comes back, they should become more dangerous because of the rhythm that is being built with the team.

Up next: The Rockets face the Thunder again on Wednesday night.

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The Texans can address receiver in the NFL Draft. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Texans traded away Brandin Cooks to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick in 2024.

Cooks’ move, while not eye-popping from a draft capital standpoint, opens the door for the Texans to pursue a receiver with one of the draft picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Houston has been known for having a top receiver for most of the franchise’s history. First with Andre Johnson and then with DeAndre Hopkins.

Now with the top spot up for grabs, here are some prospects at receiver the Texans could pursue with either the 12th overall pick or even into the second and third round of this year’s draft.

Quentin Johnston — TCU

Johnston has all the characteristics of a star receiver. He is 6 feet, 3 inches and weighed 208 pounds at the NFL Combine. The Temple native recorded a 40.5-inch vertical jump and 11-foot, 2-inch broad jump at the combine as well.

He hauled in 60 receptions for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns for the Horned Frogs in 2022 in a year that culminated in the College Football Playoff championship game. Johnston caught four passes for 139 yards in the Big 12 Championship Game, and he also caught six passes for 163 yards against Michigan in the College Football Semifinal.

Johnston’s biggest concern heading to the next level is his ability to make catches in traffic. In TCU’s College Football Championship Game against Georgia, he was held to just one catch for three yards. In order to reach his potential, Johnston will need a lot of development that will fall on the shoulders of Ben McDaniels and Bobby Slowik if taken by Houston.

Jordan Addison — USC

The former Trojan and Pittsburgh Panther caught at least 59 passes in every season of his collegiate career.

His best year came as a sophomore when he caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2021. Addison had 875 receiving yards and eight touchdowns with Caleb Williams under center in 2022 for USC.

Addison, who stands at 5 feet, 11 inches, ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, had a 34-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump at the combine. The Frederick, Maryland native’s consistency in college makes him an attractive pick for Houston that is going to be looking for versatile players at the receiver spot for the next signal caller under center.

Some of Addison’s drawbacks include his ability to win battles off the line of scrimmage when facing against physical corners. Similar to Johnston, he likely will not be there in the second round when the Texans pick, so if Houston really likes him, it might take the 12th pick.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba — Ohio State

Smith-Njigba could be the biggest question mark of the draft at the receiver position. After having a productive 2021 season for the Buckeyes, in which he caught 95 passes for an eye-popping 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns, he missed most of 2022 with a hamstring injury that limited him to just three games.

He stands at 6-foot-1-inch and 196 pounds, and he had a 35-inch vertical and 10-foot-5-inch broad jump at the NFL Combine. While excelling at the slot receiver position in 2021, having only one strong season is a big cause for concern.

If he is available after the first round, the Texans should consider taking a chance on him. If he is not, he might be too much of a question mark to take in round one.

Tank Dell — Houston

In a season that was defined by a lot of inconsistency from the Houston Cougars, the one constant was Dell at the receiver spot. Tank Dell, who’s real first name is Nathaniel but don’t call him that, caught at least five passes in every game for UH in 2022.

Despite being the No. 1 option, and in some weeks, the only reliable option at receiver for Houston due to injuries, Dell consistently produced, which is a trait every team in the NFL should love.

Dell finished the 2022 season with 109 catches for 1,398 yards and brought in 17 touchdown receptions for the Cougars. Tank officially measured in at 5 feet, 8 inches at the NFL combine. He ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, a 1.49-second 10-yard split and a 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump.

Dell’s biggest cause for concern is his size. If he is still available when the Texans are on the clock at 65, he could be the steal of the draft.

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