10 notes and musings from a trip to Summer League

Here are 10 things SportsRadio 610's Adam Spolane saw and heard during his three-day trip to Summer League
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(SportsRadio 610) - While spending three days in Las Vegas, I witnessed the Rockets Summer League wins over Oklahoma City on Saturday and San Antonio on Monday. I was also able to observe the end of Sunday's practice.

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Here are 10 things I saw and heard on my trip:

1. Heard nothing but good things about Jabari Smith Jr., both from Rockets people as well as people outside the organization. And in three Summer League games he showed the tools that made him the third pick in the draft along with the intangibles teams fall in love with, most notably diving on the floor in the waning seconds of Saturday’s game to steal a possession while protecting a one-point lead.

"That's what you need from your best player," Rockets Summer League head coach Rick Higgins said. "If they are going to do that late game, who's not going to do it?"

2. Smith is unique for a guy picked at the top of the draft because he’s not thought of as a high-end scorer. One executive from a team that picked in the top 10 told me they still had him as the top player on their board, even though they didn't think he'd ever average 20 points per game, noting he’s an exact facsimile of what teams are looking for with a modern big, and he does all the little things that contribute to winning.

3. Really impressed with Rick Higgins’ enthusiasm and ability to break stuff down and simplify things for guys who are having a million things thrown at them in a short amount of time. The players really seemed to respond to him, which bodes well for the 35-year old’s future in the game.

4. I want to see video from the Rockets draft room when Tari Eason was there for them at 17. He is perfect for them in so many ways, not just as a player, but as a person. I'd be surprised if this lasts his whole career, but he makes sure to shake hands with every participating reporter at the end of every media session.

5. Stephen Silas told me he plans on starting Smith and Alperen Sengun together when the season starts. Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. would seem to be locks to makeup the Rockets starting backcourt, so that leaves one open spot. Eric Gordon would seem to be the favorite to round out the starting five, but Silas hinted to me he may go in a different direction, noting teams can’t hide centers on Jae’Sean Tate when he shares the floor with Sengun, “Which was an issue for us,” Silas added.

6. People around the league were surprised the Rockets declined to retain assistant coach Will Weaver, who is well-respected across the NBA and interviewed for head coaching jobs prior to joining the Rockets when Silas was hired.

7. Daishen Nix has had a really strong summer, so it was good to see him bounce back from a subpar game in the Rockets Vegas opener to play well on Saturday and Monday. Unlike the rest of the guards on the Rockets roster, Nix is a pass-first guy with vision that rates off the charts. He would seem to be the favorite to get backup point guard minutes behind Porter, and it will be interesting to see how he fares playing next to Green. The duo logged just 36 minutes together last season, but the Rockets offensive rating was 115.4 in that span.

8. The Rockets love TyTy Washington and had him rated much higher than the 29th spot where he was drafted, but it may be tough for him to get consistent minutes this season. He can play either guard position, but he may spend a lot of time in the G League with Green, Porter, Nix, and Josh Christopher seemingly ahead of him on the depth chart.

9. Usman Garuba’s sprained left ankle is the biggest disappointment of Summer League. It would’ve been nice to see him in game action after a myriad of injuries cut into his rookie season, but he should be fine when training camp starts in the fall.

10. I wouldn’t get too wrapped up in the Rockets win total next season. The West is such a gauntlet, and they are so young. San Antonio is really the only team in the conference I would pick them to finish ahead of at the moment, so the Rockets are likely to add another premium pick to the mix they already have.

Adam Spolane covers the Rockets, Astros and a lot more for SportsRadio 610. Follow him on Twitter @AdamSpolane.

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