If this were ten years ago, having Joe Johnson and Nene on the same roster would nearly compare to a superteam. However, in today’s NBA, both played small roles on a team with a lot of success, very little of which was because of the two of them. Their veteran leadership definitely contributed to the success of the team, but when you are the oldest team in the league, how valuable is that leadership?
As one of the few players who declined from a year ago, Nene went from an incredibly necessary part of Houston’s success and a huge loss when he was injured in the 2017 Playoffs to total non-entity in the 2018 Playoffs.
A lot of this had to do with the resurgence and growth of Clint Capela, but a lot of it was also a matter of circumstance. Nene was an unfavorable matchup for the Rockets to play against the Warriors and he only played 5:45 in a Game 1 loss in the second half when Ryan Anderson proved himself to be unplayable. That was the final time he saw the floor in the series.
Nene is phasing out of Houston’s plans it seems, especially if the team is kept relatively the same next season. However, Nene’s successful ‘16-’17 season earned him a shiny three-year contract that has him on the books until the ‘19-’20 season. There is a good chance he won’t see the full duration of the contract but he is someone that could be back next season given how many free agents the Rockets currently have.
If he returns, Nene would be a very good depth option during the regular season and injury insurance for whoever the center may be. At 36, he will also continue to provide the veteran leadership he brought this season no matter how valuable or not-so-valuable it may seem.
Seen as the final piece to Daryl Morey’s puzzle when he bought out his deal with the Kings to sign with the Rockets, Joe Johnson brought a jolt of excitement when he came to Houston.
Mike D’Antoni seemed determined to find a place for the seven-time All-Star to fit in the rotation, but after 23 regular season games, Johnson was sent to the bench in favor of Mayor of Houston Gerald Green. He saw action in eight playoff games, mostly in garbage time, but he did see key minutes in the pivotal Game 7 where he went scoreless in just five minutes.
Iso Joe was meant to be a scorer for the team, but the other scorers on the team fulfilled those roles better and Johnson was the odd one out.
As someone who only signed a contract for the remainder of the season, Johnson’s chances of coming back are slim. His career may be coming to an end, though Johnson did say that he wanted to play next season. He also said he would be interested in re-signing with Houston, but the real question is, would the Rockets be interested in re-signing with Johnson?
Given what he has done for the Rockets, I don’t think it is enough to warrant a second contract, but then again, it depends on how much the Rockets value his position as a veteran and a leader from the comfort of the bench.