The Rockets have started to replace the pieces that they have lost this offseason.
The Houston Rockets are in the middle of retooling their role players. After losing both Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute to free agency, the perimeter defense and 3-point shooting of the team needs a bit of work.
One option that has come up repeatedly throughout the process is Carmelo Anthony. He was heavily rumored to have been interested in the Rockets last summer, and vice versa. When he became available again, both sides seem to want this to finally happen.
That may solve some of the offense lost by those two guys, but the Rockets still need to play some defense. No offense to Melo, but that is certainly not his forte.
In comes James Ennis.
The Rockets were able to pursue and eventually sign the electric James Ennis for a two-year deal for just $3.4 million. This signing will do wonders for the Rockets and help keep them in contention on very cheap contract. Let’s look at the reasons why signing him was perfect for Houston:
Next: Reason No. 1
He brings very good perimeter defense
As we said earlier, the Rockets are in great need of perimeter defense. The loss of both Ariza and Mbah a Moute hurts the team, as they were able to switch onto most any player and play solid defense.
Thankfully, defense is a strength of James Ennis. He has the ability to play great on-ball defense as well as switch and defend the perimeter on just about anyone. He’s traveled around to several teams over the years, but his defense remains the same no matter where he is at in the NBA.
In fact, he’s had success against someone we know pretty well. When he was on the Grizzlies, he played pretty good defense against James Harden. Check out this video by DefenseWinsChampionships on YouTube:
Ennis has the skill on that end of the court to take the challenge of guarding the opposing team’s best player. That is something that the Rockets will need without the two players that left and he should help bring that to the table.
Coming off the bench, or even starting, Ennis makes the Rockets that much more sound on the defensive end of the court. For a team that finished sixth in defensive rating last season, they want to put pressure on the opponents night in and night out. That’s why James Ennis is a perfect fit.
Next: Reason No. 2
Ability to shoot the 3 and finish at the rim
James Ennis also fits into the offense that the Rockets run. The system of Coach D’Antoni and Daryl Morey emphasizes heavily relying on 3-pointers and layups/dunks. Thankfully for Houston, James Ennis can do both.
As far as 3-point shooting goes, Ennis is a fairly average shooter in the league. He has a career 3-point percentage of 36% and was shooting around that mark last year before being traded to Detroit.
He can space the floor on offense and be a viable threat to knock down the open 3. With James Harden and Chris Paul on the team, Ennis will be getting more attempts, and more open attempts, than ever before. We could see his percentage increase as the volume goes up for the athletic forward.
James Ennis also has a knack for finishing on the break. He can run out in transition and finish with ease. He even was a dunk of the year candidate a few years ago after slamming home this flashy jam:
Ennis might not be the best at driving to the rim in a half-court setting, but he won’t need to do a whole lot of that in Houston. He can just catch and shoot in the offense perfectly tailored for his game.
Next: Reason No. 3
The Rockets got younger
Last season, the Rockets were the fourth-oldest team in all of basketball. While that certainly isn’t a bad thing, youth is always something that is nice to have on the team.
Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza are 31 years old and 33 years old, respectively. They are still good and certainly not old, but having someone who will bring somewhat similar production at 28 years old in James Ennis will be nice for Houston.
Daryl Morey has stated in the past that he wanted the Rockets to have some good, young talent on the team. With Ennis coming in, they get a solid role player that is in the prime of his career at 28 and has under 5000 minutes played in the NBA.
His legs should be plenty fresh once the postseason comes. Last season, unfortunately, the Rockets started to get hurt at the end. Luc Mbah a Moute dislocated his shoulder for the second time and was never quite the same. Chris Paul had that unfortunate injury at the end of Game 5. Having a younger player on the roster that will be getting plenty of minutes should be great for the team.
Trevor Ariza also seemed to tire out at the end. In Game 7 against the Warriors, he went 0-9 from 3-point range in what was a horrible performance. Surely, Ennis can at least bring some much-needed youth that will stand the test of the long NBA season.
Overall, James Ennis was a perfect signing for the Rockets. He will be fun to watch as he slides into the role of one of these guys that he is replacing. Houston might be on the lookout for another perimeter defender, so keep your eye out!