A 7’6″ Hole to Fill: Breaking down the Rockets’ Centers

So here we are at the center of our discussion. The Rockets are a team built around the expectation of a super-large anchor who’s chain separated and set the team adrift in a storm with a demagnetized compass. And now the team’s fantastic collection of parts seem like just that, parts.

With the giant man in tow, perimeter players such as Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry look to have been perfect cogs in an efficient inside/outside machine that now sputters and spits black smoke, leaving it longingly on the outside of a working plan, looking in.

What’s left are who we have to discuss, players with impossibly-sized shoes to fill. (We miss you, big man.)

Chuck Hayes

28-year-old NBA role players who’ve never averaged more than 22 minutes a game are supposed to be who they are, contributing in the ways they’re expected to and not adding new skills like sophomore lottery picks. But apparently no one informed Chuck Hayes of this nugget of practical wisdom. (thank you, no one.)

Two words: triple double. Did you (the ‘you’ here being ‘you’ the reader/self-aware NBA fan where ever you sit) ever think you’d read those two words and the name Chuck Hayes in the same sentence? Probably not, unless they referred to a player Chuck (I like to call him ‘Chuck’ like we’re friends or have ever met in actual life) may have had the unfortunate task of guarding on a particularly effective night. But here we are. It happened. And so did the Chuckwagon’s development of a reasonably productive offensive game, complete with high post passing and a hitch-less free throw form.

The man who can defend all five positions and has never, to my knowledge, been backed down in an NBA game is now also not a complete offensive liability? Why shouldn’t the team do everything in its power (within reason) to resign him, and when it does, why shouldn’t he start? I understand the argument against such a suggestion:  he doesn’t block shots. But neither does anyone else on the team who’s name doesn’t rhyme with Basheen Claheet. And I dare you to make a case for starting that lost puppy that doesn’t involve tanking for a lottery pick. Go ahead. I’m listening.

Jordan Hill

As with Chuck Hayes, Jordan Hill is probably a player who should more properly be included in a discussion of power forwards than centers, but this is where we find ourselves, team and fans alike. Coming out of college Hill was often compared to Amare Stoudemire, but since the draft about the only similarities between the two are that they have both played a home game at Madison Square Garden.

Hill has good size and athleticism, but if you watched any Rockets’ games last season, you probably saw him look lost on defensive rotations, hesitant on offense, and generally incompetent enough to, by the end of the season, lose the majority of his minutes to a rookie. Next season is the last guaranteed year on his contract, which, if he doesn’t start figuring some things out, could be his last in the NBA.

Hasheem Thabeet

The list of things we know about Hasheem Thabeet after two seasons in the NBA:

  1. He’s very tall.

Thabeet blocks shots but so far isn’t so great at the actually playing offense or defense part of professional basketball. He averages enough fouls to be ejected from every game before logging 30 minutes on the court, and although centers often take a little time to come around, he’s 24 years old. Like Hill, the guaranteed portion of Thabeet’s contract is over after this coming season. And as well, like Hill, if he doesn’t start showing off some of that potential that made him a number two draft pick, his little time may also be up.

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