ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported late Friday that the Houston Rockets are expected to add big man Kenneth Faried, who has reached a buyout with the Brooklyn Nets, according to sources. Can Faried help fill the void left by Clint Capela's absence due to thumb surgery?
Let's take a look at whether Faried makes sense for the Rockets.
Since Capela suffered the thumb sprain that's expected to sideline him through the All-Star break, Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni has played the team's three healthy centers ( Marquese Chriss, Isaiah Hartenstein and Nene) a combined 51 of 101 minutes, meaning Houston has played nearly half the time without one. Smaller lineups with P.J. Tucker and rookie Gary Clark in the middle have filled the other minutes.
Clearly, then, the Rockets could use a better center option. It's just not immediately clear that Faried qualifies. After all, he's played just 118 minutes all season, the reason the Nets were willing to buy him out despite being in the midst of a playoff push. And past attempts by Brooklyn and the Denver Nuggets to use Faried at center were unsuccessful. According to Cleaning the Glass, lineups with Faried in the middle have been outscored by at least 7.1 points per 100 possessions each of the past four seasons.
Houston is surely counting on Faried fitting better in D'Antoni's system, which emphasizes athleticism rather than size for 5-men. Working as a screener for James Harden, Faried will be asked to rim run and catch lobs like Capela, and that's something he can do. According to Second Spectrum tracking, Faried's 151 shot attempts on lobs rank 20th in the NBA since 2013-14. By contrast, the ground-bound Nene has just 16 shots on lobs in that span.
When opponents switch his screens for Harden, the Rockets will task Faried with taking smaller opponents to the offensive glass. Faried has ranked in the NBA's top 10 in offensive rebound percentage three times in his career, per Basketball-Reference.com, and his 13.8 percent career offensive rebound percentage ranks sixth among players with at least 5,000 minutes over the past decade -- two spots behind Capela.
Because of his limited shooting range, Faried has always been better cast offensively as a center. The problems come at the defensive end of the floor, where Faried's instincts are to fly around the court rather than protect the rim. Among the 116 big men who have defended at least 500 shots in the restricted area since 2013-14, Second Spectrum data ranks Faried 88th in opponent shooting percentage (65.1 percent).
Instead of parking Faried in the paint, Houston will likely have him switch screens and rely on his athleticism to keep up with smaller guards. Unfortunately, the results when Faried has switched haven't been better. They've actually been worse. Again, going back to 2013-14, opponents have averaged 1.03 points per chance on picks switched by Faried, according to Second Spectrum tracking. That ranks 143rd of the 147 players who have switched at least 250 picks in that span.
On the plus side, Faried will have a better scheme and defenders around him when he switches. Still, he's going to have to be effective defensively, either on the perimeter or in the paint, to justify staying on the court. Otherwise, D'Antoni will go back to small ball even with another option in the middle.