The Houston Rockets have exceeded expectations so far this season, as they are 41-13, sitting only one game behind the almighty Golden State Warriors for the best record in the league. Many were worried that the James Harden Chris Paul combo wouldn't work. However, the doubters were quickly put to rest, as the duo have blitzed through opposing defenses.
Many would think that the best formula for the rest of the season is to stick with what's working. Obviously, general manager Daryl Morey thought otherwise and proceeded to complete a couple of moves. Shortly after being traded to the Sacramento Kings, Joe Johnson sought a buyout. Brandan Wright, after a so far disappointing year with the Memphis Grizzles, did the same. The Rockets jumped on the two newly available players and are now on the verge of signing them for the rest of the season.
Johnson is by far the bigger name between the two, as he is a notoriously good scorer, especially in the clutch, averaging 16.2 points per game through his career. However, the 36 year old is only averaging 7.3 points in 21.9 minutes per game this year, shooting 42% from the field and a dreadful 27.4% from deep.
Wright has always been a serviceable backup center that plays similarly to starter Clint Capela. His offense is restricted to the paint, mainly layups and dunks. That is why he is averaging a meager 5.0 points in 13.6 minutes per game this year. He's also getting 3.4 rebounds per game and 0.9 blocks per game. However, these numbers are lower than what he normally outputs, explaining his departure.
Iso Joe - the Veteran presence the team needs
Since he has become such an inefficient scorer in his old age, many will question why the Rockets bothered to get a washed up player like Johnson. The team likes their wings to be good defenders that can shoot from deep; just look at Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, and Luc Mbah a Moute. Their other wing, Gerald Green, has turned out to be a great scorer off the bench too. So why Johnson?
The Rockets have the talent to go all the way and dethrone the Warriors. What they don't have is a veteran locker room presence that can help keep the team level headed late in close, important games. Harden has shown that he isn't that good in those situations. Paul is far better, but has chocked in the postseason several times with the Los Angeles Clippers. The rest of the team is full of veterans, but only role players.
Johnson has the history and respect throughout the league to be a leader in those times, even if he is left on the bench. Nerves will be running high, especially if it's in a very important game in the postseason against the Warriors to make the championship. He will be very important in the locker room in the playoffs.
Also, the Utah Jazz, his previous team, are not nearly as good on offense as the Rockets. Harden and Paul will be able to give Johnson the ball when he's open. He won't have to create his own shots, just be at the right place and let it fly. It will be a lot easier for him to take open shots with the Rockets, meaning that he will hopefully make a higher percentage.
The team's wings have also gotten injured throughout the season, as both Ariza and Mbah a Moute have been out for extended time. If any get hurt later in the season, Johnson can be a reliable player to step in and play more minutes.
Obviously, he isn't going to take many minutes away from Green, who has been an offensive force so far. Look at Johnson to play like eight minutes per game, maybe giving Tucker, who has recently been put into the starting lineup instead of Ryan Anderson, more rest. Johnson can also play the four, so he's an ideal Tucker and Anderson backup.
Wright improves rim defense
Wright has always been best known for his ability to block at the rim, as the Rockets most certainly know (watch below). For a team ranked 17th in the league in blocks per game, Wright can definitely help. Even worse, they are 28th in the league in opposing paint scoring, possibly their biggest weakness.
Wright won't get much playing time, as he has to compete with Capela, Nene, and Tarik Black at center. Nene is a great offensive backup big while Black is much more similar to Wright. Watch Black and Wright split time, with Wright also getting some, but very little, time at the four. Wright won't single handedly flip the Rockets' defense, but he provides a solid option in case the opponents' bigs are dominating.
Sorry Bobby Brown
After being cut from the team, point guard Bobby Brown was resigned on Friday for the rest of the season. Not even a day later, he was cut to make space for Joe Johnson. I'm sorry man, we still love you.