I liked the Kenneth Faried addition. I thought it was a good pickup at a time when the team, hurt by injuries, sorely needed help in the middle. I thought when Clint Capela returned, Faried might fit nicely as a backup five.
But I’ll be honest — that was the extent of it. Never at any point did I envision him playing power forward at all in Houston’s system.
Capela is back now and it’s clear the Houston Rockets saw things I did not. They have bigger plans for Faried than just spot minutes.
With James Harden out, Faried got the start at the four alongside Capela Saturday night and he made the most of it. The Manimal put up 20 points and snared 10 rebounds as the Rockets stunned the full-strength Warriors at Oracle on national television.
We’re dealing with small sample sizes, but the game opened my eyes about the possibilities with Faried.
Rebounding has been killing the Rockets
The Rockets have been going small almost the entire season and, as a result, they’ve been a terrible rebounding team. They’re 27th in the league in rebounding, but 29th in defensive rebounding percentage. Put simply, they give the other team way too many second chances and it has cost them more than a few wins this season.
Saturday night, the Rockets actually outrebounded the Warriors 48-46. The starting frontcourt of Faried, Capela and PJ Tucker combined for 35 of those caroms.
By giving Faried more minutes at the four, the Rockets can roll at times with two strong rebounders and shore up this glaring weakness.
“I feel like there’s two of me on the court,” said Capela of playing alongside Faried. “I think especially on the rebounding, it’s huge.”
But wait… Houston’s four has to have range!
The big reason Faried at the four didn’t seem like a good idea was his shooting ability… or, lack thereof. In eight seasons in the NBA, Faried had taken only 25 three-point attempts, making just three. You would never confuse him with a stretch four.
But yet there’s Mike D’Antoni planting Faried out on the wing to set screens and spread the floor. In just 14 games with the Rockets, Faried is already a shocking 5-11 from deep.
Whether he will continue to be accurate remains to be seen, but we know now he has the green light and isn’t shying away from the role. If opponents even consider him a threat from there, forcing coverage, it’s a huge boost to the Rockets, opening the lane for Harden and Chris Paul to operate.
“He’s letting me play. He believes in me,” said Faried of D’Antoni, adding that the coach tells him “You worked on your game. I watched you work on your game… so go ahead, go shoot that three. Go drive to the basket. Play your game.”
It’s working. In two games with Capela back, Faried is averaging 16.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in 25.5 minutes.
Tucker needs a breather
PJ Tucker was a breath of fresh air on both ends of the floor last season when he replaced Ryan Anderson in the starting lineup, but he’s been struggling offensively for some time, averaging just 6.6 points and shooting 27.1% from three in the 19 games before the Warriors contest. Counted on for so much defensively in Houston’s switching system, Tuck has seemed out of gas at times.
Having Faried as an option at the four could give Tucker a chance for a little more rest — and takes some of the pressure off the 6-foot-5 forward to be keeping NBA Bigs off the offensive glass.
OK, so we’ll stop with the glowing praise here.
Faried is not a great defensive player. He botched the defensive set that gave Russell Westbrook an easy layup for the win a couple weeks ago… and that wasn’t the first time. However, he is energetic and isn’t afraid to switch on anyone. He also can block some shots off the weak side.
And being blunt, the Rockets haven’t been a good defensive team this year even before Faried. For stretches, you will be willing to trade off some of that individual defensive ability, hoping it can be overcome with team switches, for his rebounding. Maybe losing out on Markieff Morris wasn’t as big of a deal as we thought.
The road win Saturday against a criminally-talented All-Star Starting Five was incredible. Chris Paul reminded us all that he’s still quite capable of being an elite player. But just as important is what we saw from Faried and how the Rockets plan to use him as an option to create bigger lineups, making this team a lot less predictable.