To combat the departure of Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza, the Rockets went out and got the best defensive wing they could have gotten in James Ennis.
Ennis, a one-time member of the Memphis ‘Grit & Grind’ Grizzlies is a defense-first guy, or at least he will be for the Rockets. His three-point shooting was at 33.3 percent last season, which is below Ariza’s and LMAM’s levels from last season. He will also look to boost his three-point percentage as he is going to be playing for a team that shoots way more threes than Memphis and Detroit did last season. If he does not, it could spell problems for the Rockets.
But Ennis’s most redeeming quality is his stout defense. When watching film on his defense, one of the first videos that came up was from a 2016-17 game against none other than the Rockets.
Ennis would primarily guard James Harden in this game, and he did a very good job. He would often force the ball out of Harden’s hands and give it to a different shooter. And when Harden was in isolation, he placed his feet in a strategic spot so that he would force him into a bad shot. The shot selection in this game was off for the Rockets, but mostly because Ennis would force them into it.
Now of course there are rumors that a guy that rhymes with Yellow De’Anthony could be coming to Houston, but I wouldn’t hold it past MDA to start Ennis even over Melo.
Starting Ennis would give you that defensive edge and allow Melo to come off the bench to be the secondary scorer on a strong second unit as opposed to the tertiary scorer behind Harden and Chris Paul. Ennis is a better balance for when Harden and CP3 are both on the court. This is similar to when the Rockets opted to start P.J. Tucker over Ryan Anderson because Tucker provided more defense as opposed to Anderson, who is primarily an offensive-minded player.
I wouldn’t expect Ennis to get the minutes that Ariza got during his tenure here because he is not as good of a player as Ariza, but at this point in time, he is the team’s best wing defender. The Rockets will be counting on him to fill the void of the defensive identity that has left the team in free agency and to provide that “Junkyard Dog” attitude when he hits the floor. Whether it is 10, 20, or 30 minutes, that’s the guy Ennis needs to be.