When the Houston Rockets drafted Amen Thompson fourth overall in last June’s NBA Draft, many expected that it would take him a year or two to blossom into the franchise’s lead point guard.

Houston backed this up a week later when it was announced that they were bringing in one-time NBA All-Star Fred VanVleet, who plays the same position as Thompson, with a three-year, $130 million deal.

As expected, Thompson was eased into his rookie campaign and came off the bench in the Rocket’s first four regular season games before an ankle injury sidelined him for over a month. This led him to fall off the radar and the strong play of his fellow rookies Victor Wembanyama, Chet Holmgren, and Jaime Jaquez Jr. made him even more of an afterthought.

When he was ready to return from his injury, Houston exercised patience and allowed Thompson to get his bearings in the G-League. He wasted no time reacquainting himself with the public as he recorded a triple double—29 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists—in his first G-League game.

This served as a reminder of Thompson’s tantalizing potential and the bright future that he has with the Rockets.

Upon his return to Houston’s line-up though, head coach Ike Udoka continued to exercise patience. The rookie guard remained a reserve and his minutes continued to be limited over the next month.


However, a back injury forced VanVleet to miss the Rockets’ January 21 meeting with the Boston Celtics which paved the way for Thompson to make his first career start. Houston wound up losing to the East’s top seed, 116-107, but Thompson did not disappoint as he put together a strong all-around statline. In 32 minutes of play, the 21-year-old recorded 15 points on five-of-10 field goal shooting, 14 rebounds, five assists, and a steal.

Thompson returned to the bench for the Rockets’ next seven outings, yet another VanVleet ailment, this time a groin injury, opened the door for the rookie to make a few more appearances with the starting line-up. Over this five-game stretch that ended right before the All-Star break, Thompson made five starts and averaged 12 points, 11.6 rebounds, four assists, and 1.8 steals. Houston fed off his constant energy on both ends of the floor as his defensive instincts and above average rebounding ability for a guard opened up several transition opportunities.

VanVleet eventually returned to the court for the Rockets after the All-Star break, but Thompson has remained a key part of Udoka’s rotation in the two games since despite coming off the bench. He tallied 22 points on nine-of-13 shooting, five rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in their 12-point loss to the New Orleans Pelicans then followed this up with 15 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, a steal, and two blocks in their 114-110 win versus the Phoenix Suns.

An interesting development in this victory against the Suns was that Udoka decided to close the game with Thompson instead of third-year guard Jalen Green. While Green may be a superior scorer, the length and defensive presence of Thompson has proven to be much more impactful for Houston and this situation will be a key storyline to monitor over these last few weeks of the regular season.

The Rockets have a truly special talent in Thompson on their hands and it would be wise for them to hand the reins of this team to him sooner rather than later. He is clearly ahead of schedule and his upside as a mobile 6’7 guard is through the roof. The future is bright in Houston and the sooner that they realize that it revolves around Thompson, the better it will be in the long run for this team.