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3 things Thabo Sefolosha brings to the Houston Rockets

By Tevin Williams
Thabo Sefolosha #22 of the Utah Jazz looks on during their game against the Houston Rockets (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
Thabo Sefolosha #22 of the Utah Jazz looks on during their game against the Houston Rockets (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets signed forward Thabo Sefolosha to a one-year deal. Here are three things the veteran brings to the team.

In an effort to fill out the rest of their roster, the Houston Rockets invited a bunch of free agents to their minicamp in Las Vegas. Terrence Jones, Raymond Felton, Corey Brewer and Nick Young were a few of the players who attended, but it was Thabo Sefolosha, the oldest player of the group, who stood out from the rest.

So the Rockets decided signed him to a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal. Sefolosha, who had knee surgery last season as a member of the Utah Jazz, hasn’t been healthy over the last couple of years, so the Rockets are minimizing their risk by signing him to a one-year contract.

Sefolosha began his career with the Chicago Bulls in the 2006-07 season before being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the middle of the 2008-09 season. Thabo played in OKC for six seasons, so he has at least some chemistry with both Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Over his career, Sefolosha has averaged 5.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Those numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping, but Sefolosha has been able to stick around in the NBA for 13 seasons because he excels at things that aren’t recorded on the stat sheet.

Let’s take a look at three things the 6-foot-7 forward brings to the Houston Rockets.

Next: No. 3

Thabo Sefolosha (22) of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Thabo Sefolosha (22) of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

3. Wing defense

Outside of rebounding and bench scoring, the forward position is probably Houston’s biggest weakness. In fact, Houston’s inability to grab defensive rebounds last season was due in large part to the fact that they were almost always outmatched by other teams who had bigger forwards while the Rockets deployed a starting lineup consisting of three-guards and a 6-foot-6 power forward.

At 6-foot-7, Sefolosha can certainly help out on the glass, but his main role for the Rockets will be as a lockdown defender. While Sefolosha is out of his prime, he can still hold his own as a defensive stopper. In his 50 games last season, the Jazz allowed just 99.5 points per 100 possessions while Sefolosha was on the floor, a 5.8 point improvement over Utah’s season average. Sefolosha’s presence improved an already elite Utah Jazz defense that ranked second in defensive rating last season.

Sefolosha is the perfect player for Houston to put on forwards like LeBron James, Paul George or Kawhi Leonard for short stretches. This will help Houston contain opposing star wings, especially if P.J. Tucker is taking a rest or dealing with foul trouble.

Of course, Sefolosha will play limited minutes and he won’t fix all of Houston’s weaknesses, but adding his skillset to the roster is definitely a step in the right direction.

Next: No. 2

Thabo Sefolosha #22 of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Thabo Sefolosha #22 of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

2. Reliable 3-point shooting

Thabo Sefolosha isn’t exactly an elite 3-point shooter and his accuracy from 3-point range has been all over the place over the course of his career. He had a season when he shot just 27.5 percent from downtown but he has also made over 40 percent of his 3s in a season twice. In fact, Sefolosha shot a career-high 43.7 percent from downtown after that career-low 27.5 percent season.

With that being said, he is a 35.2 percent career shooter from downtown and he even made 43.6 percent of his 3s last season. Sefolosha isn’t considered a marksmen, but he definitely has a respectable jumpshot.

Sefolosha attempted a career high 3.2 3-pointers per game in the 2012-13 season, but he has shot less than 3.0 3-pointers on average in every other season, so he isn’t a volume long-distance shooter. If he plays a good amount of minutes in Houston, he’ll probably take, and hopefully make, more 3’s than he ever has in any other season.

The Rockets signed Luc Mbah a Moute, who has a lower career 3-point percentage than Sefolosha, back in 2017. In the 17-18 season, Mbah a Moute shot 36.4 percent from 3-point range and made a career-high 1.0 3-pointer per game. If Sefolosha can average similar numbers, he should be a part of Houston’s rotation.

Next: No. 1

1. Veteran leadership

The last thing that Thabo Sefolosha brings to Houston is veteran leadership and a lot of experience. Thabo played in the 2012 NBA Finals and appeared in the Western Conference Finals in 2011 and 2014 as a member of the Thunder. He also played in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Hawks in 2015.

It’s safe to say that Sefolosha has played in a lot of big games against the best the NBA has to offer, and that type of experience can be valuable to young players like Danuel House, who really struggled in last season’s playoffs.

Sefolosha’s defense-first mentality will also be huge for this team. The Rockets were a top 10 defensive team in the 2017-18 season, but after losing two of their best defensive players, the Rockets took a step back last season.

Next. Ranking the top 5 threats to the Houston Rockets in the West

While a lot of players in the NBA talk about giving effort on defense, Sefolosha actually plays hard on that end of the floor night in and night out. Leading by example is the best way to lead, and Sefolosha’s high energy on defense, along with P.J. Tucker’s, should inspire the rest of the team to play hard on that end as well.

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