With the max contract and $90 million extension that Daryl Morey handed out this offseason to Chris Paul and Clint Capela, respectively, Houston’s general manager was forced to salary dump Ryan Anderson and let Trevor Ariza walk in free agency, all in the name of keeping new owner Tilman Fertitta happy and under the luxury tax.
James Harden, Capela and Paul are making a combined $81 million this season, though, and are owed $448.5 million over the next five seasons, which has created a reality for the Rockets in which the front office has had to search for production in G-League players and NBA drifters.
All season, they’ve had a revolving door of names mostly better suited for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, all of whom have become a cliffnote to Harden’s historical season, many of whom have offered surprisingly quality minutes for season-saving portions of the year.
No one has fit that mold better than Kenneth Faried, who was marooned last season in Denver, a holdout from the George Karl era, and traded to Brooklyn this offseason. He was cut by the Nets after 12 uneventful games on Jan. 19, and scooped up by Morey two days later, with his career on life support.
Since, he’s played 14 games in Houston, averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds on 61 percent shooting in 29.5 minutes per game, all of which would be career-highs over the course of a season. His 116.4 offensive rating is also highest on the team since he joined the Rockets, per NBA.com/stats.
Faried has redefined his NBA shelf life in his short time in Houston, and, ironically, may perpetuate Morey’s cycle this offseason by becoming so valuable that the Rockets won’t be able to afford him. Here are some unlikely contributors, big and small, for Houston this season.
P.J. Tucker, who played in Israel, Ukraine, Greece, Italy and Germany before coming back to the NBA, is 33 and playing a career-high in minutes (35.3).Nene, a greying 36-year-old, has played 30 games this season.Gerald Green, who was playing one-on-one with his rottweiler in his garage this time a year ago, is shooting 6.2 3s per game in 55 games.Austin Rivers, waived earlier this year by the Suns, has been a reliable third guard.Isaiah Hartenstein, who, it’s OK, we don’t know much about either, has played 27 games.Gary Clark, not Gary Clark Jr., has played 37.
Overall, Houston has played 21 players in at least one game this season (Golden State has played 16), including one- or two-hit wonders like Zhou Qi, Carmelo Anthony (!), Vince Edwards, James Nunnally, Brandon Knight, Michael Carter-Williams, Danuel House and Brandon Knight.
Yes, the Rockets, now 35-24, beat the Warriors without Harden on Saturday night. Yes, Harden is still averaging 35.5 points per game and is actively chasing a Wilt Chamberlain record. But no, this season has not been an easy one in Houston.
Let's take this to your inbox. Sign up below.