NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

Here's why the sky is the limit for these young Rockets

The future looks bright for the Rockets. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets are on an 18-game losing streak. Even though the Rockets are getting dominated during the streak, there are bright spots. The future has become bright for Kevin Porter Jr. and Kenyon Martin Jr. Ever since Porter and KJ left the G-League, they have hit the ground running. The G-League built better confidence for both KJ and Porter.

Since Porter and KJ are having a good season with the Rockets, it is time to analyze them.

As of right now in five games, Kevin is averaging 19.6 points per game, eight assists, and almost two steals. Kevin is also shooting 43.7% from the field off 17.4 attempts per game, including having a 51% true shooting percentage. His game is completely pure because of his shiftiness and explosiveness. Porter's first step is hard for the defenders to keep up with. Being young and athletic pays off well for Porter. Porter attacks driving lanes because of his ability to see the floor at an all-pro level. When attacking inside the restricted area, Porter is 75%, which is ranked 12th in the league (88th percentile) behind LeBron James, according to Cleaning the Glass.

While being able to see the floor well, Porter can make crafty passes to big men like Justin Patton and Christian Wood. Coach Silas raves about Porter's playmaking ability on the court. Being able to find different players whenever on the court on offense. NBA defenses struggle to guard all aspects of Porter. Six players on the Rockets are scoring over 40% when Kevin passes the ball to them. In a frequency manor, he and Jae'Sean Tate have the best connection on the court, which is 17%. Porter has proven to the Rockets' coaching staff that he can play point guard, including becoming a combo guard.

Porter takes a variety of different shots, which are step-backs and contested shots from wherever. He's great at getting his own shot, including off the dribble. Step-backs are Porter's favorite shot when space is created by him. Kevin is 39 percent from the field when attempting step-backs, including being 42.3% in efficiency too. Off 29 unassisted attempts from the field, Porter is 100%. He does not need much help when creating his own shot. His skill set is elite at 20-years-old.

Porter relies on his midrange because he struggles from behind the 3-point line. He is 58% from midrange, which ignores Porter's poor shooting from behind the arc. He shoots the three-ball at 23%. So, if Kevin wants to become his idol James Harden, the 3-point shooting needs to improve. Remember when I said Porter loves contested shots, he is shooting pull-ups at a frequency of 50.6%. That is a high rate, but his efficiency field goal percentage is 38%, which is good. I could go on about Porter's stats, but the eye test is immaculate. Porter's speed and agility are off the charts. It will be fun to watch Porter's growth with the Rockets in the upcoming years.

Now, let's discuss KJ Martin

KJ Martin has shown his complete athletic ability for the Rockets. He has used that ability to score at all angles on offense. Even though KJ is only averaging 7.7 points per game, his cutting, dunking, and defense have brought excitement to the Rockets. Most of Martin's shots are dunks, and he's recorded a grand total of 12. KJ is scoring 60% percent inside the restricted area.

Martin thrives off assists from other teammates, including cutting toward the basket. His quickness has allowed him to blow and sneak by defenders. Martin is at 80% when cutting towards the basket for dunks. He has made himself available in the Rockets' offense by having a 17% percent usage rating. Playmakers on the Rockets have found KJ 22 times, and he is 100% when assisted.

Martin has become good at defense, and it shows with his amazing blocks on Rudy Gobert and John Collins. He is good at help side defense, so that allows him to cover up space quickly on defense. Martin's defensive rating is 104.1, which is outstanding for a rookie.

Hopefully, KJ becomes more well-rounded on offense, so he can become dominant. He is missing a versatile package. When KJ develops his game, he'll last longer in the NBA. Relying on athleticism, can shorten any NBA player's career. The best thing for KJ is to start early. KJ mentioned to me that he could possibly work out with Carmelo Anthony in the future after they lost to the Utah Jazz, so that's something that could help him down the road.

Despite the Rockets struggles of late, it'll be fun watching KJ and Porter develop and improve their game for the Rockets. The future has become bright for those two alongside Christian Wood.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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