Oct 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green (0) and Houston Rockets center Nene Hilario (42) fight for position during the second quarter at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Nene Hilario brings his experience and leadership to the Houston Rockets
In one of the best under-the-radar signings this season Daryl Morey added Brazilian powerhouse Nene Hilario to the Houston Rockets for just $2.9M. The former Washington Wizard who struggled with injuries the past few seasons is set to take on a new role with the Texan team.
After the departure of big man Dwight Howard the Rockets were left with a huge gap in their frontcourt. Granted, even when considering Clint Capela’s potential the team still lacked a strong presence in the paint.
Besides adding depth to the center position, Nene Hilario can be a leading voice in the locker room. The 34 years-old Brazilian also offers strong playoff experience as well as toughness inside the paint.
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Nene Hilario (42) during a game against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Likewise Nene’s signing should help the Rockets cement a strong presence in a fast growing NBA market in Brazil. Considered one of the first Brazilian players to succeed in the league Nene is a legend in my country.
If the big fella can avoid injuries in the 2016-2017 season the Rockets have nothing to worry about. A highly productive and active player when on court, the Brazilian center is a steal.
Nene Hilario 2015-2016 Accomplishments
Nene missed 25 games last season and the Wizards didn’t make the playoffs, thus there isn’t much to discuss here. On the other hand the Brazilian center had great performances in the Olympic Games.
9.2 Points per game
4.5 Rebounds per game
1.7 Assists per game
54.4% Field-Goal percentage
However, comparatively to the 2014-2015 season his PER-36 minutes stats were far better and in fact impressive. Take a look:
2015-2016 Season Stats Per-36 minutes:
17.3 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, 3.2 assists per game, 1.8 steals per game.
2014-2015 Season Stats Per-36 minutes:
15.7 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, 2.6 assists per game, 1.4 steals per game.
- Participated and led the Brazilian National team in the 2016 Olympic Games.
- Has the sixth-highest field goal percentage (54.4%) among active players in the league entering this season
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Nene Hilario (42) shoots the ball during a game against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Pick-and-Roll Defense and Overall Defense
Granted that pick & roll defense might not even be the best attribute that Nene brings to the table in terms of improving the Rockets. At any rate that’s where fans and critics alike feel he can make the biggest contribution.
The Rockets struggled whenever defending the pick and roll last season. Not only could the team not contain the ball handler in the pick and roll but they’ve also had problems switching or defending the roll man.
Apart from pick and roll situations, Nene can provide much needed help boxing out on the defensive end and crashing the boards. Rebounds may not seem like a problem but the Rockets actually ranked 27th in defensive boards in the league last season.
Additionally the Brazilian center possesses a big body that allows him to use his frame to contain almost any big man in the league. It’s well worth noting that the Wizards defense allowed -3 points per 100 possessions when Nene was on court last year.
Field Goal Shooting
To put it bluntly: Nene rarely misses shots. The former 2010-2011 field-goal percentage leader has two preferred plays on the offensive end. First, his favorite high percentage shot is to work in the post where he can use his massive body, bump his adversary and get under the rim.
Nene works nice on the pick and roll as well and will take as much advantage of this play with James Harden as he did with John Wall. He quickly rolls to the basket and finishes with power often with a strong dunk.
And while some might say that his other strong play, the mid range jumper is not as effective, last season with the Wizards Nene averaged approximately 40% in shots ranging between 16-24 feet. On shots from the top of the key the Brazilian is even better, averaging north of 42%.
Not to mention that if the preseason game against the Spurs is any indication of Nene’s success shooting from mid-range this season then the Rockets will have yet another asset in this area of the floor.
Next: Areas to Improve
Injury Worries and Free-throw shooting
I’ve decided to pack those two together as they are legitimate weaknesses that at this stage in his career the Brazilian center can’t do much about it.
For instance in the last 4 seasons with the Washington Wizards, Nene’s lost a total of 90 games. Thus averaging in excess of 20 missed games per season. As a matter of fact Nene only once took part in all 82 games in his 14 years in the league.
Conversely, Nene seems to be entering this season in great shape with seemingly no ailments or injuries. This is supported by his strong performances in the Olympics when Nene registered over 29 minutes of action. Such averages draws attention as only once in the last 5 years was he on court for this type of extended minutes.
The same can’t be said regarding free-throws as Nene is coming from his weakest year shooting from the charity stripe, just 57.8%. While not yet a likely candidate for the “hack-a” strategy, he should probably at least improve to a 60% average in order to not become a liability for the Houston Rockets.
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Nene’s never been a shot blocker. That’s just not part of his arsenal. Though he’s a competent player at clogging the paint and scaring potential drivers he’s not able to contest shots.
Despite being a strong player the Brazilian’s explosiveness on the defensive end is not there anymore. His leaping ability and quickness mostly due to his large frame and age is impaired.
However, when Houston requires fiercer defense for clutch situations such as game-ending plays Nene and Clint Capela could work in concert to lock down the paint.
Next: Expectations for 2016-2017
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Nene Hilario (42) attempts to score during a game against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
One of the best moves by Daryl Morey this offseason came with the economical Nene signing. Some feel the expectations for Nene are unrealistic. That is unless Nene avoids injury problems, then he can become more than just a backup player for Clint Capela.
To be sure, his experience and leadership can help the young European center grow this season. But Nene can genuinely become one of the most solid contributors for the team on both ends of the court.
Expect the Brazilian center to play between 20-25 minutes per game coming off the bench switching between PF and Center and scoring close to 10-12 points every night.
His impact on defense can be even greater and grabbing 5 boards per game would be more than enough from the veteran.
Some argue that at 34 and with the history of injuries Nene is nothing more than a luxury for the Houston Rockets. That might very well be true, but now playing with less responsibilities Nene might still be a relevant piece and a leader for a playoff bound team.
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