Feb 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Wizards center Nene Hilario (42) reacts as he looses control of the ball in front of Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
With the signing of Nene the Houston Rockets are adding much needed size and strength to their roster.
After the highly scrutinized signings of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson the Houston Rockets have now added Brazilian PF/Center Nenê Hilário to the Roster and likely ending their participation on this year’s NBA Free Agency, with the only pending negotiation involving solidifying Donatas Motiejunas qualifying offer.
It’s also entirely possible – and likely – that Daryl Morey will continue reshaping the Rockets with trades to balance the team’s roster in the weeks leading up to the regular season, but for now it seems that the negotiations have reached a halt.
Next: Nene was almost a Rocket before
Mar 25, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones (1) looks to pass the ball as Washington Wizards center Nene Hilario (42) defends during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
The addition of Hilario also marks the first time in the Houston Rockets franchise history that a Brazilian player is part of the roster. Even though, truthfully the same Nene got pretty close to being a Rocket five seasons ago when the NBA voided a deal that would send Pau Gasol to the Rockets and Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. Back then the Rockets expected to clear enough cap space with this deal thus allowing them to aggressively pursue Nene in Free Agency.
Five years and a handful on injuries later Nene is not the same player he once was. Nevertheless this deal can definitely be considered a coup as the Rockets are adding size, depth and vast NBA experience to the roster with the strong big man (in the Regular season and playoffs) for only $2.9M.
Btw, Nene for 1yr/$2.9M is tremendous value in this market. He’s constantly injured, but when healthy, he’s an effective NBA big man.
— David Weiner (@BimaThug) July 6, 2016
On the brink of completing the 34 year old’s addition the Brazilian big man has already sparked a lot of positive comments by media and fans alike. The general feeling is that Nene adds great value for a role player on a particularly poor position for the Rockets after Dwight Howard’s exit.
Let’s further examine what his role will be in this completely refurbished Rockets team as well as how Hilario can contribute to the Rockets this coming season.
Mar 5, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards center Nene Hilario (42) is tended to by a team trainer after suffering an injury against the Indiana Pacers during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
One thing that has been constantly addressed by everyone following Houston Rockets through Free Agency is that this team IF healthy could become a force even in the always stacked Western Conference.
That’s not only a big, but a HUGE “if” as besides Anderson and Gordon, Nene is another player that has struggled with injures his whole career.
Throughout his 15 years in the NBA the big man from Brazil has battled serious health issues including a career threatening testicular tumor in 2008 and played a full 82-games season in just one opportunity in the 2009-2010 season with the Denver Nuggets
In the last 4 years with the Wizards Hilario has played an average of 60 games per season which for bigs is a relatively regular stat.
However Hilario’s usage has always been high. For starters he’s never been considered a backup player anywhere. Instead – whenever healthy – Nene’s constantly figured as a valuable starter whether he was playing for the Denver Nuggets or the Washington Wizards as the Brazilian has started in excess of 75% of the games he played throughout his career in the league.
Therefore there’s no reason to believe that this is a risky move for H-Town. Surely you can’t expect him to play 30 minutes a night for the entirety of the season, but suited for a backup role – while Clint Capela is groomed and adjusting to the starting position – and provided he could play up to 60-65 games this season then I’m very positive he could be an excellent addition to the Rockets.
Oct 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) and Washington Wizards forward Nene Hilario (42) battles for a rebound in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Playing Both Ends
There’s plenty to speak about Nene’s value since arriving in the NBA from Vasco da Gama in the 2002 NBA Draft. He’s always been a great player on both sides of the court. And even though his signing pleases angry fans desperate for some defense, Nene is also a consistent and respectable scorer on offense averaging over 10 points per game in almost every season in the league.
Due to his frame Hilario is able to defend any big man in the league and is great on pick and roll situations whether he is switching or keeping up with his man he has great success.
It’s well worth noting that the Rockets had countless problems particularly defending the pick and roll last season.
Now take a look at Nenê’s general work on the defensive end:
That’s not all, as despite having the big man largely playing off the bench last season the Washington Wizards still had a better defense whenever he was on court. As per 82games.com the Wizards allowed -2.9 points less per 100 possessions when Nenê was playing. In the previous two seasons respectively the team also averaged -4.8 and -5.5 points whenever the Brazilian was playing.
The big man will also provide much needed help crashing the boards particularly on the defensive end where the Rockets ranked 27th in last season. His job won’t be solely to grab rebounds, but also boxing out effectively so other good rebounding players such as James Harden and Ryan Anderson for example can profit off Nenê’s strength and build.
Finally Nene is a tough player and he’d gladly do the dirty work for the team. And even though it could lead to some trouble or ejections it’s refreshing to know that the Rockets now have someone besides Patrick Beverley to play hard and be gritty.
Mar 19, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards center Nene Hilario (42) dribbles as New York Knicks center Kevin Seraphin (1) defends during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Although it’s unlikely that Hilario will have a huge role offensively especially now that Houston has acquired a lot of great competent scorers, if called upon Nene has a solid jump shot from the top of the key but is at his best when getting the ball near the paint and quickly rolling or driving to the basket finishing with strength.
To wit, Nene is also great setting screens and is not a player that clogs the lanes like Dwight Howard thus leaving room and space for drivers.
The big Brazilian has an incredibly underrated passing game as well and if given the opportunity can maul anyone with brute force on the offensive end as we all remember his destruction of then DPOY Joakim Noah in the playoffs two years ago.
Ultimately, if anything Nene still retains his athleticism and explosiveness when finishing a play so a lot of flashy dunks from the big Brazilian are to be expected!
Next: High end value for the price
Jan 26, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Washington Wizards forward Nene (42) reacts to a call by official Haywoode Workman (66) during the fourth quarter against Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Wizards lost 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Additionally there’s something to be said from the Market aspect of this signing. By far Nene is the most appreciated and famous Brazilian player in Brazil. And even though he might be one of the only top-tier Brazilian players in the league that still haven’t got a ring he is widely regarded by fans and former players alike as the best Brazilian to ever play in the NBA.
So it makes huge sense for the Rockets to sign Hilario and set foot on a fast growing market that is Brazil particularly this year with the Olympic Games being in Rio de Janeiro.
I am honored to become part of the Houston Family!! ? Thank you for the opportunity and LETS GO ROCKETS!!!
— Nene Hilario (@NeneHilario42) July 6, 2016
Finally, the Olympic Games will be another great opportunity for fans to watch the new Rocket in action as well as for Nene to get in shape and prepare for the upcoming season playing against some very tough competition!
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