Garuba Brings Necessary Intensity to Young Rockets


“With the 23rd pick in the 2021 NBA draft, the Houston Rockets select Usman Garuba from Madrid, Spain.”

Adam Silver announced the Rockets’ newest draft pick, but nobody crossed the stage to shake hands or put on a draft cap. Garuba was unable to dap up the commissioner in New York City as he was in Tokyo, Japan participating in the 2020 Olympics with the Spanish basketball team.

Four days later, the U.S. and Spain would play each other in a win-or-go-home semifinal game. This would be our first time seeing the future Rocket play against not just NBA-level players, but some of the best NBA talent in the world.

Here are four takeaways from Garuba’s 16 minutes on the court in Spain’s 95-81 loss to the Americans.

The Clamp God

Usman initially came off the bench at the end of the first quarter. In his first defensive possession of the night, Garuba matched up with Jayson Tatum on the perimeter. Tatum drove to the rim — Garuba did well to keep Tatum in front of him — and went up with the shot.

Garuba followed it all the way and got a massive stuff block… on one of the NBA’s most elite scorers.

Obviously, the block itself is incredibly impressive. What should catch your eye in this play and what we saw throughout Garuba’s minutes in this game, however, is his ability to move laterally on the perimeter and in the paint– all while staying vertical to avoid fouling.

Garuba’s defensive versatility was on display as he was asked to defend Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and the aforementioned Tatum at different points in the game. He showed he already has elite defensive instincts; his rotations were timely and he had terrific hands breaking up plays and disrupting passes. He finished the night with a block and a steal, plus all sorts of hustle plays that aren’t reflected in the box score.

Crashing the Glass

Garuba only recorded one offensive rebound in this game, but that’s not indicative of how aggressive he was on the offensive glass. If the opposing team doesn’t actively box Garuba out, he will make them pay for it.

Limited Offensive Game

Team Spain’s roster was full of seasoned Olympic veterans, so Garuba wasn’t asked to do much offensively. He only attempted three shots, two of them being misses from deep and they looked… less than ideal. On the bright side, it’s a good sign he has the confidence to shoot from deep. Garuba’s third field-goal attempt was right at the rim, where he powered through three U.S. defenders for a tough layup.

Despite his offensive limitations, he remained active and engaged on Spain’s side of the floor by cutting to the basket, setting strong screens and as mentioned above, fighting for offensive rebounds. His playmaking skills aren’t the flashiest, but he does tend to make good passing reads as well.

He’s Strong… Really Strong

At just 19 years old, Usman Garuba already has a great NBA body. Listed at 6’8″, 230 pounds, Garuba’s shoulders are well-rounded and he’s got a thick chest with strong legs. In this game, his strength was on display guarding Bam Adebayo in the post with relative ease, setting hard screens and powering his way to the basket.

Rockets fans should be thrilled with what they saw from Usman Garuba against Team USA. He is certainly a raw talent, but he oozes potential on both ends of the floor.

Follow us on Twitter @RocketsLead for the latest Rockets news and insight. 

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About Karlee Worthen

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