In order to get a bit more insight on the current state of affairs of the Portland Trail Blazers’ next opponent, the Houston Rockets, we spoke to The Dream Shake contributor and social media manager Zeke Nwanganga.
You can follow Zeke on Twitter @itzjustzeke.
Thank you Zeke for participating in our Q&A.
1. The Rockets have struggled all season long and could end up with the league’s worst record for the second year in a row. What’s been going on in Houston?
Youth, lack of talent, absence of identity, and inconsistent play. You know the vibes, the typical traits of a rebuilding team. They’re 27th (108 points per game) in offense and 30th (118 PPG) in defense, don’t even get me started on their turnovers (ranked 30th) and putrid transition defense (ranked 30th). It’s the production of sadness, quite frankly, you’re not winning anything with those nasty traits.
However, when they do win games they score 121 points per game (ranked 3rd), 49 percent from the field (ranked 8th) and 41 percent from three (ranked 1st). They have some potential they just need to just develop and grow together, like my mother would say “good food cooks slowly.”
2. With the offseason closely upon us, which big man in the draft do you like the most at the moment for either the Blazers or Rockets? Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero?
Honestly the Rockets are awful, they need the power of god and anime on their side if we’re being honest. Any of Chet, Jabari & Paolo would be fine. Talent is talent, and beggars can’t be choosers. Under the circumstances that I have to play the role of shadow GM, I think I would prefer Jabari Smith out of Auburn.
The 6-10 forward played flaccid against Miami, as he proceeded to record a 10-point performance on 3-16 FG shooting and 1-8 from three-point range. Despite his lack of offensive efficiency, Smith still was active against the opposition with 15 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 4 assists.
I can’t guarantee if he has a higher upside than Chet or Paolo. However, he has the tools to contribute now on a team like the Houston Rockets who are small and are in desperate need of a sharpshooter.
Jabari’s 6-10 220-pound frame, his 7-1 wingspan can provide weak side help in the paint, while having the ability to switch on bigs in the post or on the perimeter against guards and wings. He’s no slouch on offense either, his freshman year in the SEC he put up 17 points per game while shooting 42 percent from distance.
It may not be the sexy pick like the shot creation skills of a Banchero, or the unicorn potential of Holmgren, but there is value in a superb 3 & D player. Besides, if he is able to develop better ball handling skills to support his offensive creativity, I think it helps his star potential.
3. If the Rockets win this weekend, what would be the reason why?
Silly answer: Portland’s roster doesn’t want to win the tank bowl, and they’re trying to place a bid in winning a scratch off strawberry scented sticker from Commissioner Silver with the Western Conference play-in.
Serious answer: Houston’s inability to make three-pointers against the Blazers. In their two matchups earlier this season, the Rockets have averaged 23 percent from downtown compared to their usual 35 percent 3 point percentage. This is unacceptable and they should rectify this expeditiously, but I think they will with the strides Kevin Porter Jr. & Jalen Green have made from deep compared to the beginning of the season.
4. What is one thing you want Blazers fans to know about the Rockets that can’t be seen through box scores?
Well, as a noted Jalen Green agenda pusher, I would like to push the propaganda. His performance in March has been phenomenal with 19 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent from three-point range. With that being said, can I interest you in Alperen Sengun ‘magic’?
Sengun is one the youngest and exciting centers in the league! His plethora of tricks of no-look passes, crafty post up moves, ability to guard in space, all while being a rim protector is a fun visual experience! Just don’t expect him to be consistent on the defense part.
5. What is your prediction for Friday and Saturday’s games?
I think the Rockets and Blazers split the games 1-1. It’s really hard for a team to win back to back against the same opponent. Either team that loses the first game will be motivated to redeem themselves the next.
Especially when you consider the fact in the past seven games both teams are under .500, I can see them both competing hard for pride’s sake.