Is small ball officially dead in H-town? It would appear so. Two of the biggest additions this offseason for the Houston Rockets are centers. First, they signed the top free agent big man on the open market in Christian Wood, and then the upped the big man ante by taking a chance on center DeMarcus Cousins.
Formerly one of the best big men in the league, Cousins has been decimated with injuries of late, including the dreaded torn Achilles and also a ruptured quad and a torn ACL that had him miss all of this past season. There’s no telling how he's going to respond, though reports out of camp are that he’s looked good, and Cousins himself is excited to be in Houston and playing with long-time friend John Wall, saying this in his media day press conference:
“It’s an incredible feeling, this something that me and John have planned and dreamed about for a long time... My body is in a great place, my mind is in a great place.”
The last time we saw Cousins on the court, he was having a pretty good season with the Golden State Warriors, averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. He even gave the Rockets the business — because of course — in a March 2019 game in which he went off for 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, helping lift the Dubs to a two-point victory over the good guys.
If we end up with any semblance of that Cousins — say even 85 percent — the Rockets are in business. Houston has a new starter in Wood. Cousins will be coming off of the bench, and limiting his minutes will be the best way to keep him effective.
Cousins had this to say about coming off the bench:
“I’m totally fine with it. I’m here to help C-Wood get better every single day. He’s been a sponge since he stepped in the building. You can’t ask for anything more, coming from a young player. He’s extremely talented, and I’m here to push him and get him better every single day.”
With Cousins and Wood both capable of shooting from beyond the arc, this will be a fine one-two punch for Steven Silas’s new system. So while the Rockets won’t be going small ball anymore, they’ll still be looking for spacing on the court with multiple shooters, and both of these guys can fit that bill.
In addition, this also gives the Rockets ammo to match up with some of the bigger teams out there. Moving Wood to power forward with Boogie at center allows the Rockets to run a more old-school grouping should they need to pound the paint (or are getting pounded in the paint).
All of this depends on Cousins’ health, however, and we won’t know until he hits the floor in a live game what that really looks like.
The Rockets have protected themselves in case he’s not healthy, giving Boogie a one-year non-guaranteed deal, but the hope is that he’ll be able to fill in 15-20 good minutes per night, though I’d imagine we might see him sitting for rest on occasion as well.
If he’s healthy, this looks like a phenomenal signing. If not, there’s absolutely no risk for the Rockets. This is one of the top under-the-radar signings this year in the NBA, in my opinion. Especially if James Harden is in the mix, there’s a good chance it succeeds.