Thabo Sefolosha was acquired for his shooting and defense, but his struggles to see the floor give the Houston Rockets reason to look for other options.
A long, multi-positional defender that could spot up and knock down long-range shots. That was the player the Houston Rockets were hoping to get when they signed Thabo Sefolosha in September. He had been that exact player for most of the 2010s, but at 35, his best days appear to be behind him.
Through his first 14 games with the team, it is unclear how many good days, if any, he has ahead of him. He’s averaging a career-low 10.9 minutes per game due to his minimal impact. With all the injuries piling up in Houston’s wing rotation, that simply won’t cut it.
Danuel House and P.J. Tucker are the only true forwards currently in the rotation. In Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Houston only went seven players deep in a 137-123 loss. Coach Mike D’Antoni‘s inability to trust more than two guys coming off the bench in November speaks volumes.
Sefolosha tallied a grand total of two minutes and 17 seconds of action in the game. At 6-6 with length, he would appear to be a perfect player to throw at Dallas’ young superstar Luka Doncic, but in those two minutes and change, Sefolosha did not record a single stat and Houston was outscored by nine points. The only time you probably saw him involved in a play was when he was crossed-up by the Slovenian before knocking down a three.
The Rockets’ bench is already thin, but the release of Ryan Anderson this early shows a willingness to cut ties with players that aren’t performing up to the team’s standards. Sefolosha’s limited minutes and 29.7 percent field goal shooting and 30.4 percent 3-point shooting may be pushing him in that same direction. Those splits give him the worst true shooting percentage on the roster, which, with how poorly Eric Gordon was playing before his injury, really says something.
The Rockets’ answer to the problem may be on their own bench. Gary Clark is 10 years younger than Sefolosha, bigger at 6-8 and 225 lbs, and has averaged almost 37 minutes per game in his G League assignments. His NBA experience is limited, but it is not hard to believe he could soak up 10 to 15 minutes per night off the bench.
Giving Clark more minutes would also be beneficial moving forward. His $1.6 million salary for next season is less than the $2.6 million veteran minimum a player like Sefolosha would sign for. He also has the opportunity to improve. House was already 25 last season when the Rockets signed him out of the G League and gave him a similar flier.
There are also a few free agents that could be targeted with the open roster spot like J.R. Smith, Kenneth Faried, or Jamal Crawford. Each fills a hole for the Rockets’ bench unit, but no moves can be made until the play of their Swiss 3-and-D wing, who hasn’t been able to do much of either, is addressed.
The Ewing Theory is usually used for the subtraction of star players, but sometimes it’s the smaller moves that make all the difference when you have title aspirations.
In NBA history, we’ve seen some random signings that ended up being crucial to success. Whether it was signing someone that is more tattoo than man, someone that will lead the NBA in technicals every year, or maybe someone that scored 51 in their most recent NBA game.
You just never know what move puts you over the top until you make it.