Kyle Wiltjer just may be earning himself a roster spot on the Houston Rockets. In 5 preseason games, he’s shooting an impressive 52.6% (10 for 19) from three and a solid 52.9% from the field (18 for 34). His 9.6 ppg is currently 5th on the team. He’s also had 14 rebounds in 75 minutes of play while limiting his turnover to 3, all in a single game in which he played 25 minutes.
In his first preseason game against the Shanghai Sharks, Wiltjer only played 9 minutes but scored 10 points including 2 threes. Noteworthy for Shanghai was a kid with the funny name of Jimmer Fredette scoring 33. In 8 minutes in the 2nd game, he scored 9 points on 3-4 shooting while hitting his only shot from beyond the arc. Averaging over a point a minute in his first two games earned Kyle 25 minutes in his third game against New Orleans. He had a solid stat line with 15 points, 5 rebounds (3 turnovers). He played 20 minutes in the next game, an overtime loss against Memphis, scoring 8 points on 3 for 5 shooting with 2-3 from 3. Last night, the Rockets beat Dallas 106-91 with Wiltjer adding 6 points in 12 minutes. Houston now stands at 5-1 in the preseason with one game left against San Antonio tomorrow night before the start of the regular season.
Gonzaga fans know the shortcomings in Kyle’s game but he is indisputably one of the best pure shooters we’ve ever seen. The Rockets only shot .347 from three last year so a sharpshooter from beyond the arc who can grab some rebounds should be a welcome addition to the roster. Houston lost last year’s 2nd leading scorer, Dwight Howard to Atlanta and their 3rd leading scorer, Trevor Ariza has been in a terrible preseason slump. According to KREM 2, Spokane’s CBS Affiliate, 50% of his salary (about $260K) is guaranteed for the first year, so even if he doesn’t make the opening night roster I expect he’ll be playing for the Rockets D-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Based on his stats, Kyle may need to start looking for a year lease in Houston vs. Hildago, the Vipers home. He’s playing pretty damn well.