Rockets: Jeff Green and DeMarre Caroll should thrive in Thabo’s absence

Houston Rockets Jeff Green (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Jeff Green (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Thabo Sefolosha’s departure will test the Houston Rockets’ resolve but it opens up more opportunities for Demarre Carroll and Jeff Green, who have flourished upon their arrival in Houston.

Thabo Sefolosha has informed the Houston Rockets that he will opt out of the NBA’s summer restart. The details of his decision are not known but his departure will add more discord to an already tumultuous season for the Rocket, who have experienced massive roster turnover over the past 12 months and are trying to integrate five new players acquired on the eve of the shutdown.

Sefolosha’s absence will expand the roles of the newly acquired duo of DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Green. The Rockets’ ability to adapt on the fly and integrate Carroll and Green will go a long way to determining how they’ll fare in the playoffs.

At this stage in his career, Thabo Sefolosha is more productive in the locker room than on the court. After 13 NBA seasons, 96 playoff games and one NBA Finals appearance, Sefolosha has the experience and acumen that championship contenders covet during their stretch run.

He still provides excellent defense in bursts, and this season has seen him convert full-time to a frontcourt player. The only player that’s still a part of the Rockets with a better defensive rating per 100 possessions than Sefolosha’s 107 is Robert Covington’s 106.

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While there will be moments in the playoffs when Sefolosha’s defense will be missed, his misses on offense won’t be, after he shot just 27.8 percent this season from 3-point range. How the Rockets appropriate Sefolosha’s 10 minutes per game could be the difference in a tight seven-game series.

How Carroll and Green can propel the Houston Rockets

Both DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Green needed a change of scenery. Carroll and Green spent the majority of their seasons playing their way out of the league with career-worst statistical showings.

Upon their arrival in Houston, both of their seasons took off but Mike D’Antoni would do well to give the lion’s share of responsibility to Green. Thrust into a grand experiment, Green has found new life as a micro ball center.

Since coming to Houston, he is averaging 10 points per game in 20 minutes on a career-best 62.1 percent from the field for an offensive rating of 135 per 100 possessions — that’s 15 points higher than James Harden’s for the season.

Green won’t continue to shoot the lights out but his shot profile has dramatically improved to the point that 92.4 percent of his shots are either at the rim or a 3-pointer.

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While Carroll has also seen his scoring efficiency improve, his role has been more limited than Green’s. He has played sparingly but with Sefolosha out, he’ll likely be asked to play more power forward and possibly center.

With the right mixing and matching, Green and Carroll should easily exceed Sefolosha’s production.

The Rockets’ chances of making a deep playoff run will barely budge in Sefolosha’s absence. His production and responsibilities on the court should be easily replicated but there will be moments when he’s missed.

Those won’t be the nights when the Rockets offense is humming along, but the games where nothing is going right — when the Rockets need a hard foul at the rim or someone to haunt an opposing player to the point where they’re scared of their own shadow.

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The Rockets lost a few of the little things that help teams squeak out close victories with Sefolosha’s departure. How effectively the Rockets fill his void will let the rest of the NBA know if this team has the intangibles to really be a championship contender.