Rookie forward Usman Garuba, who was picked by the Rockets at No. 23 overall in the first round of the 2021 NBA draft, is being assigned to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers — Houston’s G League affiliate.

The 6-foot-8 rookie from Spain has played only sparingly at the NBA level this season. In seven games, primarily in mop-up duty during blowouts, the defensive minded forward is averaging 1.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in 6.4 minutes. As such, it makes sense for the Rockets to send him down to the Vipers, where the additional playing time and touches could presumably help the 19-year-old’s longer-term development.

Beginning Saturday, Nov. 20, the Vipers have a five-game homestand over an eight-day period, which could allow Garuba to enjoy some extensive playing time without ever having to leave the state.

Rookie guard Josh Christopher, who was drafted one pick after Garuba, would also seem to be a potential short-term candidate to join the Vipers. However, given the uncertain availability of starting point guard Kevin Porter Jr. due to a nagging left thigh contusion, the Rockets are keeping Christopher with the NBA team for the time being.

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