The start of the new season is less than a month away, and the Houston Rockets found a way to make one more significant change to their roster with the signing of Thabo Sefolosha. He was one of several veteran players who attended the Rockets minicamp in Las Vegas, where the 13-year veteran stood out among the rest.
Although the swingman has had some success early in his career, injuries have caused a decline in Sefolosha’s on-court production following knee surgery with the Utah Jazz in 2018. If he can return to the player he was before his MCL injury, the Rockets will see an enormous return on their one-year investment on Sefolosha.
Drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2006, Sefolosha will provide the Rockets with a much-needed three-and-D player on the perimeter -- something the club has been missing since the departure of Trevor Ariza.
Starting with his defense, Sefolosha made a name for himself as one of the league’s top defenders due to his size and versatility to guard multiple positions.
At 6’7”, Sefolosha’s size and lateral quickness give him the ability to defend some of the Western Conference’s top forwards such as Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, as well as an advantage to guard smaller players on a switch in Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard. Although he only played in 50 games, Sefolosha still managed to make a positive impact on the Jazz’s defense, ending the year with a 99.5 defensive net rating.
In addition to his lockdown defense, Sefolosha’s size will also help minimize Houston’s problems rebounding the basketball from the previous year. With a lineup that featured Chris Paul, James Harden, and P.J. Tucker, the Rockets were almost always undersized -- which led to the third-worst rebounding team in the league, averaging 42.1 rebounds across 82 games.
Although Sefolosha’s most important role will be his play on the defensive end, offensively he provides the Rockets with an additional offensive weapon, in particular, another reliable three-point shooter.
Throughout his career, Sefolosha has been a slightly above average shooter from behind the arc, shooting 35.2 percent from deep. Last season marked the second time in his career where he shot over 40 percent from downtown (43.6%). He is not the ideal long-range shooter, but opponents must respect his ability to hit shots from the outside.
While playing next to Harden and Russell Westbrook, Sefolosha provides the Rockets’ All-Star backcourt to score in a multitude of ways. If his defender slacks off to double Harden or Westbrook, Sefolosha has the capability to hit open shots from the outside. If Sefolosha’s man decides to stay home, then Harden and Westbrook will have more space to get to the basket for an easy two.
At 35-years-old Sefolosha’s best days may be behind him, but his arrival is a low-risk, high-reward situation for the Rockets. In a best-case scenario, Sefolosha stays healthy and plays a majority of the season as a defensive x-factor for the Houston Rockets.