The Houston Rockets didn’t make any of the splashy moves some speculated they might before this season's trade deadline. Rajon Rondo has not come to town. But they did sneakily add a potentially important player.
His name is Jordan Hamilton.
The third year forward came from the Denver Nuggets for point guard Aaron Brooks, and he quickly looked at home in Houston, averaging 13.7 points on 52 percent shooting in his first three games with the team. His productivity has since slowed a bit, but his spike is a testament to the freedom and opportunity present in the Rockets' new-age offensive approach.
Hamilton struggled to find minutes through his first two seasons in Denver, averaging just 9.9 minutes under coach George Karl. This wasn’t entirely surprising—or indicative of his talent—as Hamilton was a very young, developing, player on a team with big playoff ambitions.
But the Nuggets reset this past offseason, firing Karl and losing several key players. New coach Brian Shaw upped Hamilton’s minutes to 17.2 per game.
Hamilton was ready for the increased usage. He put in a lot of extra time over the summer, making sure to develop a dependable skill set. “I wanted to be able to get on the court,” Hamilton told SB Nation. A second-team All-American as a sophomore at the University of Texas, Hamilton was used to a starring role.
If Hamilton wants to stay on the court in Houston, his best shot is with the three-pointer. The Rockets love to strike from deep, with many of their offensive sets designed to get defenses scrambling so as to free up an open man behind the arc.
Hamilton's chances are especially good if he can shoot the three while proving that he’s more versatile than Francisco Garcia, who was an important shooter for the Rockets in their playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but who has recently lost nearly all of his playing time as this year's team prioritizes defense and executing in half-court sets.
Hamilton seems to have taken Garcia’s minutes, already demonstrating to the Rockets that his younger legs work better in their style of play. But keeping his minutes up will require him continuing making solid decisions on the floor; one of the knocks on Hamilton coming out of college was that his shot selection was poor.
It’s unclear based on Hamilton’s short career that he can thrive consistently in a more chaotic attack like that of the Rockets, or if he’s best maximized by a more methodical approach. Hamilton’s story begins in earnest now, as he’s thrust into a championship pursuit and given the opportunity to become an important part of it.
Hamilton is trying out for a spot in the Rockets' playoff rotation spot; Houston GM Daryl Morey brought him aboard just as Garcia, Omri Casspi and Jeremy Lin all saw their games go into a tailspin in February. If their inconsistent play continues and Hamilton performs well, he may even find himself in a sixth-man role come April.
One thing is for sure: Hamilton will have his chance in Houston. Like Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones, Hamilton would make the Rockets happy were he to rise instantly from near anonymity to precious contributor. Houston's penchant for taking on a reclamation project is well known, and Hamilton seems to be embracing his opportunity.
So let’s see what you’ve got, Jordan Hamilton. Fate has given you a platform to prove yourself.