The Rockets are bringing back veteran center Nene, which is a mutually beneficial move for him and the Rockets. Here’s why!
The Houston Rockets have unfortunately fell victim to the small ball death lineup of the Golden State Warriors in recent years, which neutralized the Rockets need for traditional big men. This was especially the case for Clint Capela as he went from averaging 33.6 minutes per game during the regular season to averaging just 28.4 minutes against the Warriors in the post-season.
The Warriors suffered fatal blows with Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala no longer on the roster, hence, the Rockets are the favorite to win the Western Conference. The death of the “death line-up” has meant the Rockets’ use of the traditional big man has become more valuable, which is why the lack of depth amongst their bigs was a big area of need on the roster. They were able to add 36 year old Tyson Chandler and were facing a decision to make on Isaiah Hartenstein on whether he was ready to be a valuable contributor this season.
According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, the Rockets have agreed to re-sign veteran big man Nene, who has been a member of the Rockets since 2016. Nene had decided to opt out earlier in the off-season, which was a questionable decision considering his age and lack of value around the league. The Rockets were even trying to shop Nene in a sign and trade deal, but were unsurprisingly unsuccessful in their efforts.
This is why staying with the Rockets was the best move for Nene, because he wasn’t going to be able to carve out another 13 minutes per game on a better team than the Rockets. Last season, the Rockets went 24-10 in games in which Nene played 10 or more minutes, which is a 70.5% win rate. Nene could possibly have gotten more minutes elsewhere, but not while competing for a title, which is what he surely wants as he enters his 18th season in the league.
Nene averaged 10 points and 8.1 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, but really improved these numbers drastically in the post-season. Nene averaged 18.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes in the post-season, along with a player efficiency rating of 30.9, which was the best on the team amongst players appearing in three or more games. His post-season PER was the highest of any of his 12 year career playoff appearances.
In addition, his post-season points per 36 minutes were second best on the team and his rebounds were third best on the team amongst players appearing in three or more games as well. His post-season rebounds per 36 minutes are actually the highest he’s had in a Rockets uniform and the second best of his career. In addition, his post-season scoring average per 36 minutes was also the second best of his career, and better than the Rockets’ previous post-season of 2018.
Nene provides an additional body at a position of need for the Rockets, which is why it was mutually beneficial for the Rockets and Nene to re-unite, as he still has an offensive game that can help the Rockets, despite the fact that he’ll be 37 when the season starts.