For the past two seasons, Donatas Motiejunas has struggled to find his way with the Houston Rockets. For the most part, people could usually guess what they were going to get from a certain player, but not for Motiejunas. It’s been an up and down road for him so far, as he has yet to find himself in the fast-paced style of the NBA. It’s only been 17 games, but it seems that Motiejunas has changed that to start the year, as he has seemingly found his role on the Rockets.
It was only about a month ago that I was writing about how it’s do or die time for Motiejunas. I am glad to see that he has started swimming with the current instead of against it. Motiejunas has been a solid role player for Houston and their production starved bench. After losing Omer Asik last off season, nobody needed to step up more than Motiejunas.
He hasn’t exactly set the league on fire with his amazing displays of basketball, but he has been at least a serviceable role player. In today’s NBA, and with the Rockets’ current bench situation, you can’t really ask for more than that out of him.
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Through 17 games, Donatas Motiejunas is averaging several career highs. So far, he is averaging 8.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, all of which are career highs. He is also shooting a career high 47.4 percent from the floor. Unfortunately, he has shown some regressing in a part of his game, which would be three-point shooting.
Motiejunas hasn’t developed into the stretch-four that the Rockets were hoping he could become. He has been terrible out there, shooting an abysmal 23.1 percent while still taking 1.5 attempts per game. It’s one of the reasons his offensive improvement isn’t as good as it could be.
He’s certainly not changing the league as we know it, but those numbers are all very encouraging for him. He isn’t the Rockets’ best bench player, but it’s good to see that he has taken advantage of his opportunity. With that said, he isn’t an offensive juggernaut, and his most noticeable improvement isn’t on that end.
We can see that those numbers by themselves aren’t impressive, but he has found a way to play 25.2 minutes per game. While he has shown some improvement on the offensive side of the ball, it’s his defensive improvement that has really earned those 25.2 minutes per game.
To start the year, Motiejunas has already accumulated 0.8 Defensive Win Shares. While that doesn’t sound like much, we have to take that within the proper context. And the proper context is that Motiejunas’ career high in Defensive Win Shares is only of 1, which he had to play 62 games to get. 0.8 Defensive Win Shares through 17 games is an impressive jump in production.
He isn’t the best defensive player, but he is getting the job done early on in the season and has played a nice role in the Rockets’ scorching hot 13-4 start.
Again, he isn’t going to win the Defensive Player of the Year award anytime soon, but we also have to remember that not everybody can be a star player. The best teams have to have good role players to complement them. And so far, Motiejunas has been a good role player to complement James Harden and Dwight Howard. You can’t really ask for much more than that.
Here’s hoping Motiejunas can continue to improve as the season goes on.