After starter Trevor Ariza and key defensive reserve Luc Mbah a Moute left for the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers in free agency, the Houston Rockets were left with very little wing depth.
Ariza averaged 11.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 33.9 minutes per game for the Rockets during the 2017-2018 regular season before putting up 8.8 points and 3.8 boards in 34.2 minutes in the playoffs.
Mbah a Moute averaged 7.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per contest in the regular season and then took on a minimal role in the playoffs, posting 2.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 16.6 minutes (appearing in nine of the 17 games).
Nonetheless, both Ariza and Mbah a Moute are regarded as plus-defenders on the perimeter and played crucial roles in establishing and maintaining a much-improved defensive identity in Houston. The void created by their departures will most likely be evident in the upcoming season.
Their exits also made re-signing Gerald Green even more crucial.
Green was the definition of instant offense for the Rockets last season. After signing with the team midway through the regular season, he averaged 12.1 points and 3.2 rebounds in just 22.7 minutes per game (over 41 appearances). He also fit in perfectly within Mike D’Antoni’s perimeter-centric style of play, becoming the first player in NBA history to average more than 2.5 made three-pointers (2.7) while logging fewer than 25 minutes per game.
In the playoffs, he continued in his role as one of D'Antoni's most trusted reserves, averaging 6.3 points and 2.9 boards in 16.0 minutes.
A huge opportunity
With his two former teammates gone, a ton of playing time might have opened up for Green. On Tuesday, the Rockets announced that he officially signed his contract to return to the club.
“For all the hard work I’ve been putting in and all my dreams, it felt good,” Green said Monday morning after reaching a deal on his one-year, $2.4 million contract, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “Everybody knows in my heart where I wanted to be. It’s tough to leave my home.”
His $2.4 million salary is a massive bargain considering how important he was to the Rockets last season, but it appears as though he has a soft spot in his heart for the organization that decided to call him and give him a chance out of the blue in the middle of last season.
Interestingly, Green signed his contract after taking in some Summer League action. General manager Daryl Morey physically held it in his hands throughout the Rockets game and during his appearance on NBA TV before it was announced on Tuesday morning.
Unless the Rockets add a couple more pieces this offseason, look for Green to play 25-to-30 minutes a night for one of the league's most dangerous offenses next season. The result could be a gigantic payday for the veteran next summer, either in Houston or elsewhere.