The Houston Rockets landed another talented but fragile player today, signing unrestricted free agent center Nene to 1- year, $2.9 million deal.
The Brazilian big man averaged 9.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and half a block per game last season with a 16.36 player efficiency rating in 19 minutes, but only played 57 games. Nene can no longer be counted on to give starter's minutes night in and night out, but he will add rim protection and a solid body to team with center Clint Capela in the rotation. Picking him up for $2.9 million is essentially getting him for free in this cap environment.
Houston landing the 14-year veteran continues the 2016 offseason trend of picking up oft-injured players. The Rockets recently added Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson as well. That said, you have to applaud GM Daryl Morey for not standing pat after bigger fish like Kevin Durant wouldn't let the Rockets through the door to talk.
At this point, all you can ask for Morey and the Rockets to do is attempt to improve, and it certainly looks like they're trying. Hopefully they can also use some of the money left over from this free agency period to hire the best training staff in the NBA.
This isn't the first time Nene has been wooed in free agency. Four years ago, the Rockets nearly signed him after their deal for Pau Gasol fell through, but he elected to remain with the Nuggets, who thereafter traded him for JaVale McGee. Of course, Nene slighting the Rockets then paved the way for them to add James Harden, so it's water under the bridge.
The signing brings the Rockets' under-contract roster to 13 players. They are:
PG: Patrick Beverley, Andrew Goudelock
SG: James Harden, Eric Gordon, K.J. McDaniels
SF: Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, Sam Dekker
PF: Ryan Anderson, Michael Beasley, Montrezl Harrell
C: Clint Capela, Nene
That leaves one roster spot for second-round pick Chinanu Onuaku and one roster spot for Donatas Motiejunas, who's a restricted free agent. That doesn't leave a roster spot for undrafted free agents Gary Payton II or Isaiah Taylor, either of whom could provide valuable depth at the point. Chances are, another deal — hopefully a trade of a wing for a point guard — will go down before the summer is out.
Welcome to H-Town, Nene. You're part of the family now.