Houston Rockets Players Making the Strongest Case for More Minutes

Dave LeonardisContributor IIIDecember 3, 2013

Terrence Jones is starting to establish himself as the answer to Houston's questions at power forward.
Terrence Jones is starting to establish himself as the answer to Houston's questions at power forward.Bill Baptist/Getty Images

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 23:  Terrence Jones #6 of the Houston Rockets shoots the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 23, 2013 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Bill Baptist/Getty Images

Houston Rockets forwards Terrence Jones and Francisco Garcia have made a strong case for more minutes with their solid play as of late. The duo is one of the reasons behind the team winning eight of their last 10 games. 

Over that span, Jones is shooting 55 percent from the field while averaging 12.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. He's even flashed the ability to knock down the occasional three by going 8-of-19 from behind the arc. 

Jones had been logging close to 23 minutes per game, but mysteriously played just 18 minutes in the team's recent clash with Utah. Omri Casspi, another impressive forward on the roster, got the lion's share of the playing time against the Jazz

In that game, Jones scored just two points and grabbed four rebounds in a 109-103 loss. He also missed both of his three-point attempts. Casspi, meanwhile, finished with 13 points and six rebounds while shooting 2-of-4 from deep. 

As for Garcia, he had a relatively quiet November until exploding for 21 points against the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 27. Since then, he's scored in double-digits in two of his last three games. In his last four games, the 32-year-old sharpshooter is 13-of-24 from three-point range. 

With Chandler Parsons sitting out because of back spasms, Garcia got the nod at small forward against Utah. Despite dealing with a toe injury, Garcia played 35 minutes while finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and four blocks. 

With so much focus on the team's bright stars, let's take a deeper look at what has gone right for these two excellent role players. 

Jones struggled to find minutes early on in the season. In the team's first four games, he played a combined 15 minutes. He was finally able to wrangle a starting spot away from Omer Asik and has proven to be a nice complement playing alongside Dwight Howard ever since. 

Now, Jones' main competition for minutes at the four is Casspi. Both men bring a unique element to the position. The 21-year-old Jones is a more traditional power forward at 6'9" and 252 pounds. He has a sneaky jumper to go along with a developing post game. 

Casspi, on the other hand, is more of a small forward with the capability to play power forward in a smaller lineup. His biggest strength is his ability to light it up from the outside. The 25-year-old is currently shooting close to 42 percent from behind the arc. 

Jones' biggest advantages over Casspi are that he's a better defender and rebounder. He isn't as consistent of a deep threat as Casspi, but he can hurt you if you don't respect him on the outside. Here is a look at Jones putting it all together against the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 16. 

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 29:   Francisco Garcia #32 of the Houston Rockets celebrates a three-point shot during the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Toyota Center on November 29, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

At the 35-second mark, you see Jones making Denver pay for not getting right on him on the perimeter. Jones has all day to stroke the wide-open three as Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried is a few steps too late defending the shot. Jones even leaves his hand up in the air for added effect. 

In the next two plays, we see Jones getting after it on the defensive end. On the second block (49 seconds in), Jones sends Randy Foye's shot away and then immediately initiates the offense in transition. 

My favorite highlight comes at the 1:21 spot in the clip. Jones displays some nimble moves for a guy his size. He looks like a point guard out there as he goes around the pick and then blows by Faried for the jam. 

Jones would finish this game with 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. The aforementioned three-pointer was his only make from long-range out of his two attempts. It was a solid all-around performance for the emerging second-year man out of Kentucky. 

This performance was the first of an eight-game streak where Jones scored in double-digits. That run included a 24-point outing against the Boston Celtics on Nov. 19  and an impressive 10 points/16 rebounds in a big win over the Spurs on Nov. 30. 

With the ability to do so many things on the court, Jones appears to be Houston's long-term answer to what was a huge question mark at power forward.

Next, let's take a look at Francisco Garcia. This highlight reel is from his big game against the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 27. Oddly enough, the clip features a couple cameos from Terrence Jones. Unlike Jones, the video is all offensive highlights.

Garcia isn't just a shooter. He's a playmaker. In the opening play of the video, he makes a nice pass to Jones for a nice look at a three-pointer. Seventeen seconds in, he beats his man off of the dribble for the easy bucket.

At the 30-second mark, look at how Garcia moves without the ball. A couple quick cuts and he's open for the long two-pointer. The theme of this clip seems to be degree of difficulty. A little over a minute in, he nails a nice fade-away jumper. On the final play of the video, he absorbs some contact as he attacks the basket and hits the tough shot. 

The big key for Garcia going forward will be consistency. With Parsons' back troubles and the recent injury issues of James Harden, Garcia is going to be relied upon to pick up some of the offensive slack. He did a decent job filling in for Parsons against Utah, but he can't fall back into being the guy who disappeared for weeks early in the year. 

Jones and Garcia may be the best examples of Rockets players deserving a little more playing time, but they aren't the only bit players making noise. With injuries ravaging the backcourt, point guard Aaron Brooks has filled in admirably (double-digit points in three of his last four games). 

Omri Casspi has had his moments this season as well. With stellar play like this from these four men, the Rockets have shown remarkable depth. There aren't many teams that can get performances like these from the sixth or seventh-best players on the roster. 

The emergence of Jones has made trading for a true stretch four like New Orleans' Ryan Anderson less of a necessity. Garcia's recent play also gives Houston hope should the injury bug continue to bite Parsons and Harden. 

The Rockets aren't a finished product, but the big picture looks bright with guys like Jones and Garcia leading the supporting cast. 


Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.