Houston: Season Outlook

  • By Kyle Kappe, Day 1, 2024


HOUSTON -
2024 Season Outlook

Positional Breakdown
Center:
Antoine Hall: Without a doubt, is the best player on the team. He’s entering his final year of his contract and will likely be looking to cash in for one last big contract. He’s got 3-5 more years of being an elite player in the league, a borderline all-star and all league player, but playing either as a) the 3rd option on a good team or b) the best option on a bad team, has limited his accolades. But the two-time Champion doesn’t feel like he has much to prove. He was happy last year despite the poor season by the Lighting, which is probably helped by reaching the heights of winning, so the itch doesn’t need to be scratched. Most feel like the Lightning are trending towards a fast pace style of offense, so what do they do with Hall? Do they trade him for assets and/or picks? Do they finish the year and move on from him? Do they resign him at the max? Hope they can get him cheaper than the max will allow in FA? Does he want to come back? Will he change his mind and ring chase? Houston did try and shop him in the offseason, not actively, but a few conversations happened and the market just does not seem to be there.

Jarrell Harrison: Last years emerging rookie, he had a fine season of 10.6/7.4, but was unable to make the rookie all star team or end of year postseason list. With the existence of Hall and now Worthington, he is likely to be further overlooked, which is just as well. He fits in at the center position well, but he is not going to displace Hall this year, so he will play at the 4 spot, still occupying a traditional role of back to the basket. In fact, Hall decided to take him as a mentor this year, since they are both traditional defensive fives. He’s active and needs to channel his energy into more productive uses of his time. He really should be pushing double digits in rebounds, but again, Hall. Harrison’s scoring improved over the offseason, but it’s not quite at an good level yet, so a good season mark to get to would be at 12/8 for him, but he’s really going to be the 4th or 5th option on this team.

Jakeenan Sanders - He was the second round pick for the Lightning. After training camp, he really is only a scorer and doesn’t provide much else of the typical poster would provide. He probably won’t be a Lightning for more than a couple of seasons as we should have better options.

Carter Barlow - Listed as a center, though he really does not have any remarkable enough of a traits to really define him there. Can’t shoot inside, so maybe he should go be a guard? Nope, can’t shoot from there. 7’1? Surely he can rebound. Nope. He gets rebounds when he misses a wide open layup and the ball falls back into his arms again. His future looks like a lockdown defender who can guard most anyone. His scouting report says he has a decent mid-range game that can draw out defenders, but let’s be honest, if anyone follows him out to the perimeter, they would probably be benched immediately for letting them get sucked out there.

OG Adebayo - Undersized post at 6’8 and because he’s short, it’s given him an attitude on and off the court. He’s on the last year of his deal and he was upset at the playing time he received last year and will likely be upset at the playing time this year. He can score, rebound, and defend a little bit, so he has that going for him.

Mirko Blazevic - Really just a body, who should have more value to me than he does. He has two years at 7.5 and once the roster clears after this year, he should have a bigger role on the team. He’s massive at 7’6 with a 7’9 wingspan. Two years ago, he averaged 12.5 and 7.4 while starting all 82 games, but he’s likely going to be inactive for most of the year. He probably won’t be too thrilled about that. He’d likely get more playing time on another team, so I’m waiting for him to void his contract with me, which the JBL players union would quickly protest.

Power Fowards:
Keiron Worthington: He fell into my lap at #20 and I quickly scooped him up. Figuring out where to play him becomes the mystery. He’s my only listed PF still on the roster, the other PF’s can slide up to center or down to SF. Ironically enough, he will start the season at the wing, to maximize his playing time. When Hall sits, the goal is to move Harrison to Center and Worthington will bump up to the power forward spot. It’s not an ideal world, but the situation isn’t the ideal situation either. He won’t play too many minutes at the 3, but he’s also not blocking a key person at that spot either.

Dimitri Karacic: He was slated to start at the 3, before I acquired three more wins, so his minutes everywhere have been limited. He’s got a single year and he’s mostly a limited minutes body, but he gives up flexibility at the 3 or 4 spot and he can shoot it from the outside and play mostly mediocre defense. But he’s good influence to have on the roster and should be a nice, unofficial mentor to the team.

Wings:

Omari Flatten - A second round pick released by the Fireballs, we quickly moved to sign him. We got him for two years and he looks mostly like possible useable depth. He could use a couple seasons of just developing and won’t see much action now, but he’s a 6’10 wing and almost as big as some of my post players

Eric Dawson - We touched upon him in the previous article, but he comes to us in a trade and he does two things, but pretty well for a second year player, and that is playing defense and shooting 3’s. He’s not going to be much of a full time starter, but players like Dawson are good members of a deeper bench. He’s on the final year of his second round draft pick contract, so he has a team option that will likely be picked up. He played just three games for the Warriors last year, so he is still raw.

Luke Williams - Not a true wing, but the Tar Heel comes in bringing more than his talent ability, but his ability to mentor his young protege, Spencer Allen. He’s not expected to play more than just token minutes, but he’s acting as an on/off court mentor to Allen. I’m trying not to draw parallels to Allen, but the former #9 draft pick had a nice rookie year, where he averaged 19.2 PPG, but it only went down from there and once he suffered his torn hamstring, he was never the same player.

Shooting Guards:

Spencer Allen: The goal for the offseason was to do what we needed to do to get Spencer Allen. We accomplished that goal, created the roster in a way to feature him and then life hit, a moderate knee injury. He’s considered a 3&D guard, but our hope is to turn him into a scoring machine. We obviously took a hit to our plans with this injury, but we need to see how he looks on the court. Missing training camp was a development hit, while not seeing him feature in preseason will be a blow to the fans as well. The goal was to work on playmaking to help him get more of an ability to score on his own, but for now, he’ll be a catch and shoot guy.

Derrick Poole: The lone draft pick from GM Kappe’s first class, he barely survived the chopping block, mostly in part of the injury to Allen. He can only do one thing and that’s score, a guard version of Jakeenan Sanders. His PER last year was 14.2, which isn’t a bad number for a second rounder in his rookie year. He won’t see too many minutes this year, but is a solid backup option for a team likely in the lottery and looking for development.

Point Guards:

DeAndre Buie - The undersized sparkplug was earmarked to be the main guy off the bench at both guard positions, but with the injury to Allen, he moves into the SG role as a starter and the backup PG for spelling Caldbeck. A 6’1 SG is why he isn’t thought of more highly, but he can also play some PG minutes, though it’s not his natural position. He is a guy who can get you points and in a hurry if need be. He’s athletic, can shoot, can handle the ball, can defend, can get the ball to teammates if need be. For the next year or two, he’ll get invested into heavily by the organization, so it remains to be seen what his ceiling can actually be.

Darryl Caldbeck - A second round rookie, he comes to Houston as an organizational diamond in the rough. He is a different kind of guard, a guy who plays well next to Spencer Allen, a guy who can get the ball to him as needed. After training camp, he looked a little worse for wear as far as ability is, but he will get a couple years of development before the Lightning know what they truly have. He can defend a little bit, he can get the ball to teammates and is athletic while not making many turnovers. Not really a scorer, so he is a stark contrast to Buie at the spot. He is a confident player, so Houston hopes that going forward, his confidence will lead him to find higher success.


Depth Chart
Center
Hall
Harrison
Barlow
Sanders

PF
Harrison
Worthington
Barlow
OG

SF
Worthington
Dawson
Poole
Karacic

SG
Allen
Buie
Poole

PG
Caldbeck
Buie

Not in the lineup: Flatten, Mirko, Williams

Thoughts on depth chart:
The notable move is Worthington at the 3. He’s not a great fit for the spot, won’t play a ton of minutes there, and doesn’t project to play there long term. But he needs playing time and with Hall and Harrison occupying the big men spot, Worthington will see minutes at the 3. It might not be successful, but am I looking for success? Once Hall is out of the picture or my strategy is adjusted accordingly going forward, Worthington is a natural fit at the 4, next to Harrison at the 5. But with Hall being a member of the team, the 5 spot is his. It’s natural to want to play Hall sparingly, but lost in all of this is the feelings of the player and the fans. The starting lineup and depth chart to start the year is a little more different that what is listed here, but the injury to Allen has me in scramble mode, especially at the guard spots where we are notably weaker. Finding out our starting wing was also tough and training camp might tell me more of what I have in my squad, but Dawson will get the start. Flatten, Mirko, and Williams will start off the season on the inactive list. Mirko probably is too good to be placed there and he will likely rotate with Sanders on who gets the token garbage minutes as the season progresses. Flatten needs a lot more seasoning before he is ready, while Williams is strictly a mentor role for us and shouldn’t see much of any playing time. Another interesting battle is that at the point guard spot. Buie is probably more of a shooting guard, but he’s the better player. Caldbeck .ooks like a second round pick but he’s being given the keys to the corvette and we’ll see if he knows how to push in the clutch to even get the car in gear. Between the point and the 3, we have more questions and unproven players than we do talent and answers. The ball will be given to Allen and Hall, with Bui and Worthington also allowed to shoot.

Season Outlook:
Not expecting a great season. I’d like to be able to flip Hall for picks or a solid player at the wing, but the market is lean for Hall. As it was stated in one of the podcasts, he’s going to give me wins and I don’t really need wins, but part of the immersion factor is not dicking him over by benching him for the sake of the team. He’s not beholden to any trade restrictions as far as I can tell, so he can move at anytime, but most teams will likely need to send me salary over so there could be complications in that regards. Once Allen gets going, I should be able to adjust the offense to his strengths and to also ensure that Worthington gets his fair share of the development. Point guard will likely see a hot mess, but I’m willing to ride it out for this season. If all else fails, maybe a Davis and the 2025 first for Hall is in the cards with Pittsburgh. Or a Akele for Hall straight up? Harrison should be his steady, consistent self and we should continue to see improvement there.