It was an odd strike against Wiltjer, who had no idea at the time, or even for months afterward, how close he had come to blowing it during his interview.
âI didnât know I was that good,â he said.
But if Morey had misgivings, he also saw potential and signed Wiltjer as an undrafted free agent. Wiltjer emerged as another experiment for a team that continues to push basketball boundaries.
While the Rockets were setting N.B.A. records this season for the most 3-pointers attempted and made, Wiltjer, 24, was launching shots from distant galaxies for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Houstonâs affiliate in the N.B.A. Development League. In 31 games with the Vipers, including the playoffs, Wiltjer took 313 3-pointers, which worked out to a league-leading 10.1 attempts a game.
âIn this system, youâre supposed to do what you do well,â Wiltjer said before the Vipersâ season ended last week with a loss here to Raptors 905 in the D-League finals. âSo if Iâm open, Iâm going to shoot it.â
His position, known in basketball parlance as the stretch 4, is vital to the Rockets. Ryan Anderson, who currently occupies that role for Houston Coach Mike DâAntoni, is one of the best in the business: a forward whose 3-point shooting spaces the floor. Andersonâs mere presence means that defenders have a tougher time cluttering the lane to prevent Houstonâs dynamic point guard, James Harden, from driving.
The Rockets have used the formula to great effect. They went 55-27 in the regular season, and they will face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals starting Monday.
As for Wiltjer, the Rockets would love for him to develop into what Morey described as a Ryan Anderson type. They cannot employ enough 3-point artists.
âI do think heâs on track to help us more next year,â Morey said.
An all-American at Gonzaga, Wiltjer had offers to sign elsewhere last summer but thought the Houston system was a good fit for his unique skill set. (Remember, he had done ample research on the team.)
âThere arenât a lot of stretch 4s out there,â Wiltjer said, âso when I heard that DâAntoni was going to be the coach and that Ryan was coming in, it was almost too good to be true on my end.â
For the Rockets, Wiltjer was a bargain-bin pickup. He was also insurance. Anderson, who averaged 13.6 points a game while shooting 40.4 percent from 3-point range during the regular season, has a four-year deal with the Rockets worth $80 million that runs through 2020.
âWe thought if Ryan were injured, Kyle would be a guy who…