Danuel House Eager to Assume Starting Role With Rockets

Michael Shapiro

The Rockets' season opener against the Bucks on Thursday will mark a special moment in Danuel House's short career. The Houston native will start for the Rockets alongside MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook, kicking off the 2019-20 season with his family in the stands. 

House went undrafted in 2016. He spent much of his first three seasons in the G League. Now, he'll be counted on as the starting small forward for a Rockets team with Finals aspirations. 

"Kid from Houston, playing with the Rockets in the front of his jersey. ... it means a lot," House told the media at the Toyota Center on Tuesday. "It's going to be a lot of emotion for my my mom and my family members, but I'm just here to have fun, it's all fun."

House logged 39 games with Houston last season, making 13 starts while averaging over 25 minutes per contest. The Houston and Texas A&M product found a home in the NBA as so many ex-Rockets wings have: by defending the wing and hitting the three. House made 1.9 triples per game at 41.6% last season, more than a passable rate as a stationary shooter next to Harden. House's shot held up in 178 attempts last season. A similar efficiency in around 350 attempts in 2019-20 would be a huge success.

Houston's closing lineups will often feature Eric Gordon instead of House. So why will Gordon start games on the bench? Head coach Mike D'Antoni offered a pair of reasons. 

The first is strategic. D'Antoni said he ideally wants two of Harden, Westbrook and Gordon on the floor at all times, leveraging Gordon's skills as a starting-caliber two guard. Gordon and Chris Paul blitzed teams to a plus-11.8 net rating in 1,106 minutes last season. Pairing Gordon with Westbrook should net a similar result against opposing bench units. 

D'Antoni also cited avoiding fatigue as a key factor for relegating Gordon to the bench.

"It allows us to control his minutes a bit," D'Antoni said on Oct. 16. "[Gordon] is as important to the team as anybody, and we have to find the spot where we maximize what he does, There's no use playing 37 minutes and there's dead minutes out there. We gotta keep him at 32, 33, and the only way to do that is if he doesn't start."

House's defensive profile is a key reason he was tabbed for the starting role in place of Gordon. He's a stout 6'6", 215 pounds, standing as one of the West's more bruising wing defenders. The third-year forward will be tasked with guarding the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but also guards Steph Curry and Damian Lillard. House says he's been preparing for the challenge. 

"I think I can guard [the little guys]," House said. "It will be a great test this year to see. I've been trying to get quicker laterally so I can be able to stay in front of those guys that are shorter and quicker than me. It's gonna be a great test, I think I'm ready for it."

The Rockets will still likely rely on its trio of guards next to P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela in crunch time, but House could very well be the team's most important piece outside of the closing five. He's talented and versatile, at least looking the part of the prototypical Rockets three. But a long season awaits, one riddled with expectation. House will have to produce, or Houston could be seeking outside options sooner than later.