The Houston Rockets went 4-1 in the Orlando Summer League, and their strong play can largely be attributed to the performances of several rookie prospects. Many of the prospects played significant minutes and contributed in more ways than one while on the floor.
The team is not taking part in the Las Vegas Summer League (which runs through July 22), so a couple of their more intriguing prospects went on to play with other teams in an effort to get more exposure.
Houston only has a few spaces left to fill on the roster. After a few changes to last season's roster, the Rockets are poised to be much improved and will rely now on more veteran production. With room still left on the roster, general manager Daryl Morey would do well to sign a prospect or two from the summer league.
They fit in the budget, have potential and have shown what they can do on the court. What's not to like?
B.J. Young's great play during the summer league was enough for him to be offered (and for him to accept) a three-year deal with the Rockets.
Young was stellar, shooting 51.6 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from deep. He averaged 11.8 points per game, though offered little else. He only averaged 1.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
A player with his type of potential would greatly benefit from a roster packed with shooters and fast-paced guard play. James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Francisco Garcia and even Jeremy Lin may be able to teach him a thing or two about shooting in the NBA—even if his summer league numbers suggest he's already got the hang of it.
Young may just be a bench filler this season, but don't be surprised if he sneaks his way into a few games here and there. By the end of the season, he could be playing around 10 minutes per game behind Harden.
Casper Ware, a point guard out of Long Beach State, proved two things during his run with the Rockets this summer. For one, he can shoot lights out from three. He shot 37.5 percent from deep. Unfortunately, the other thing he proved is that he's inconsistent shooting from anywhere else. His field-goal percentage of 38.5 is lacking and not what the Houston coaching staff wants to see.
Regardless, he played well in five games. He averaged 10 points, 2.8 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game, and also averaged an impressive 1.2 steals per game.
Ware is an intriguing prospect given his long-range shooting ability, but the Rockets may not have a spot for him. Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley and Isaiah Canaan are the three point guards currently on the roster, leaving no space to carry another.
Seeing as Lin likely isn't going anywhere, Ware may have to search for a different team. He definitely has skills, though, and Houston could sign him to play in the D-League.
Robert Covington joins B.J. Young as a member of the Rockets, as he signed a two-year, minimum level contract with the team last week.
It's easy to see why the team was so interested in the power forward. Covington has great length and can shoot with the best forwards of his class. Covington did not get drafted, but he certainly has the skills to surpass many of those actually selected.
Covington averaged 12.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, shooting 41.1 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from deep. His best game came against Oklahoma City on July 12 when he shot 8-17 from the field (3-7 from deep) with 21 points.
The best aspect of Covington's game may be his on-ball defense. The rookie averaged 2.4 steals per game, and head coach Kevin McHale could find ways to get him into games right off the bat.
Covington is one of a few prospects that could find real playing time this season.
Vander Blue is now with the Memphis Grizzlies in the Las Vegas Summer League and isn't playing up to the level that teams would like to see.
He's averaged 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest, but he's doing so on just 31-percent shooting. Plus, he's yet to hit a three. As a guard—especially a guard on the Rockets—hitting threes is extremely important. Even with Dwight Howard now in the fold, perimeter shooting will likely take precedence to all other offensive strategies.
A positive to take from Blue's performance in Las Vegas is his ball-handling. The young guard has only turned the ball over once per game, and he's averaging 20.5 minutes of action each night.
Unfortunately for Blue, he may fall into the same category as Casper Ware. The Rockets are chock full of guards and really don't have the room to sign another. If he would accept an assignment to the D-League, however, the Rockets should be willing to accommodate him.
Jack Cooley, a big man out of Notre Dame, has been a beast in the Las Vegas Summer League for the Memphis Grizzlies. He's shown the ability to do everything that the Rockets like to do.
First off, he's averaging 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in 30 minutes per game. Of the 9.5 rebounds, 4.0 per game have been offensive boards. He's shooting a robust 52 percent from the floor and is even shooting 30 percent from deep.
His free-throw percentage of 60 isn't the greatest in the world, but a team can live with that if he's so efficient everywhere else. Cooley would represent a great signing for Houston. Their big men aren't the most gifted of shooters (mainly Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas), and they both have question marks surrounding their rebounding skills.
Cooley would need time to develop, but he could potentially solve both problems in the future. Even if he stays in the D-League for a season or two, he would be worth the investment of both time and money.