Is there any fuel left in the tank for these former Rockets?
On July 12th, 2023, the OKC Thunder made a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, sending guard Patty Mills to A-town in exchange for two former Houston Rockets first-round draft picks in Usman Garuba, Ty Ty Washington, veteran Rudy Gay (later waived by the Thunder) and a 2026 second-round draft pick from the Hawks.
Usman Garuba and TyTy Washington were both first-round picks by the Houston Rockets. Within two years of being drafted, both players now find themselves in Oklahoma City and on their third NBA stop, even if they didn’t play for the Hawks.
Coming out of Kentucky for the 2022 NBA Draft, TyTy Washington joined a long lineage of former Wildcats under coach John Calipari to be selected in the first round.
Washington achieved every basketball player’s dream to play in the NBA, but soon that sweet taste went sour in Houston. In his lone season for the Rockets, Washington only played in 31 total games and started two of those outings. He averaged 14 minutes per game in the games he did get to play while tallying 4.7 points per game, 1.5 assists per game, and 1.5 rebounds per game on 36/24/56 splits.
For reference, TyTy Washington, in his entire rookie season, played 433 total minutes. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would only need to play 12 games all season, averaging 35.5 minutes per game to match Washington’s entire first season on an NBA floor. Washington didn’t get a lot of rope to play with the big boys, but he also didn’t exactly impress enough to warrant more minutes, even if the players above him in the rotation were guys like Kevin Porter Jr, Trevor Hudgins, and Daishen Nix.
Most of Washington’s run was with the Rockets’ G-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. In 23 games, Washington averaged 22 points, five rebounds, and 1.3 STOCKS per game. The Kentucky product shot 43 percent from the floor, 32 percent from three, and 83 percent at the charity stripe.
If Washington wants any chance to stick around in OKC, the recipe is pretty simple but may not be achievable. He must show real effort, fight, and competitiveness on the defensive end. In terms of offense, Washington occupies the same space as a guy I will discuss later in Tre Mann. Mann is undoubtedly the better shooter based on their current NBA career stats. TyTy Washington will get his chance to make it in OKC, but he will have to make huge strides both as a defender and a 3-point shooter if he wants to stay with the OKC Thunder.
A 2021 first-round pick, Garuba was a high-level defensive big man prospect who was as raw as an ultra-rare steak. He plays incredibly hard, moves his feet well in space for a 4/5 man, and sports a +6 inch wingspan to make up for his undersized NBA big man stature of 6’8.
Offensively there is a lot left to desire from Garuba. In two seasons in the NBA, he hasn’t really shown all that much on the offensive end other than being a rolling, big guy who can catch the occasional lob and crash the boards.
It is almost a requirement for the guys like Garuba, who are the undersized 4/5 that you have to be able to stretch the floor. Guys like PJ Tucker, Grant Williams, and others aren’t by any means dynamic scorers or shot creators, but they survive offensively as corner spacers who are pretty reliable both in their careers, averaging over 36 percent shooting from three.
Garuba is anything but a shooter or spacer. Although Garuba, in two years, has shot roughly 37 percent from three, the issue is it is on an incredibly small sample size of 79 attempts. For reference, in Grant Williams’ rookie season alone, he launched 96 shots from deep.
Could Garuba actually be a shooter finally rounding the corner? Maybe, but I doubt it. As previously mentioned, the OKC Thunder are going to give all of these guys a chance. Still, for Garuba to stick, he will have to consistently come through on his draft potential as a defender and shoot the ball way better than his competition in Jeremiah Robinson-Earl if he wants to have a fighting chance to stay in OKC for 2023-2024.