Red94 Mailbag: James Ennis, poor shooting, Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss’ spot in the rotation

Welcome to the first installment of the Red94 Mailbag! We will be running a mailbag each week and I will be asking for your Rockets questions on Twitter, so make sure you are following me @EricSpyrosNBA.  With that being said, let’s dive right in with this week’s questions!

Marquese Chriss’ fit in the rotation is more straightforward, as he should be the backup center on most nights moving forward. The Rockets were interested in bringing Chriss in because he provides them with another rim-running big that can block shots, allowing the bench lineups to operate like the starting lineup when Clint Capela is on the floor. It remains to be seen how Chriss will do in the team’s switching scheme, and he is surely going to provide plenty of mistakes for teammates to cover, but he should bring energy and highlight plays on a semi-regular basis.

Knight’s spot in the rotation will likely be more inconsistent. Some nights he will play as little as five minutes, while other night’s he may serve as a key backup guard when the team needs his shooting and scoring abilities. When one of Chris Paul, James Harden or Eric Gordon miss time, Knight will receive a featured role off the bench. Regardless, Knight should take away all of Michael Carter-Williams’ playing time, which will help the team on the offensive end (and things can’t get worse defensively). Of course, there’s the possibility that neither of these two offseason additions suit up for the Rockets this season if they are included in a rumored Jimmy Butler trade…

Throughout training camp and the preseason, all you heard from the Rockets was the excitement surrounding Ennis and his ability to seamlessly fit into the starting lineup as a three-&-D wing. Signed for the veteran’s minimum, many expected Ennis to be another classic example of Daryl Morey finding equal value at a lower cost. As a result, with the team struggling on nearly all fronts, many haven’t been as impressed with Ennis as a result of his quiet play.

However, a quick glimpse at the numbers paint the picture that Ennis has been exactly what the Rockets should have expected. Granted, these numbers are from a small sample size of 70 minutes spread across three games, but Ennis has hit 43% of his 4.7 3-pointers attempted/game and has a +10.8 net rating so far this season (per Cleaning the Glass). When Ennis has been on the floor, the Rockets’ defense has been 6.7 points per 100 possessions better, highlighting his solid defensive impact. 

It’s likely that there was simply too much buzz around Ennis coming into the season, which wasn’t helped by every Rockets fan wanting to prove that Trevor Ariza could be replaced with a cheaper alternative. Ennis has been hitting 3-pointers and playing solid defense so far, and he should only improve once he returns to full strength and continues to get integrated into the team’s system.

Eric Gordon will definitely break out of his shooting slump. Slumps can come at any time during a season, and Gordon’s just happened to come when the team has been dealing with injuries and Chris Paul’s suspension. So far this season, Gordon has hit just 23.4% of his 3-pointers and is shooting 51.9% from within three feet of the rim. That just won’t continue, considering that they are both way off his career averages from those areas of the floor (37.4% and 59%, respectively).

Meanwhile, Gerald Green really isn’t slumping at all. Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Trail Blazers (in which he shot 1-9 from beyond the arc), he had hit 35.7% of his 3-pointers, which was only slightly lower than last season (36.9%). Regardless, both players’ shooting will normalize to what we have come to expect in recent seasons, though the sooner that happens the better as the Rockets will likely be without Harden and Ennis for a couple more games.

During the latest Clippers game, Carmelo Anthony was at his best offensively, knocking down six of his 10 3-point attempts. The issue with Anthony’s offensive performance so far this season has been his inability to knock down open shots. For the season, Anthony is still shooting just 25% on wide open (no defender within six feet) 3-pointers, which should continue to climb up throughout the season. Speaking of the aforementioned slumping Gordon, he has shot a paltry 14.3% on such shots!

As the Rockets get healthy and continue to get everyone integrated, Anthony should continue to receive open shots by playing alongside Harden and/or Paul, which will help his offensive fit and performance. However, there will still be plenty of games and moments in which the Rockets don’t need Anthony’s scoring and shooting, which will still be something he will have to adjust to moving forward.

 

That’ll wrap up this week’s edition of the Red94 Mailbag! Thank you to everyone that submitted questions, I look forward to answering more of them next week.

About the author: Eric has previously covered the Rockets for The Dream Shake and Hoops Habit, and is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The 94. Favorite Rockets include Patrick Beverley and Omer Asik!

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