Even before Nene went off for 28 points in game four, he was having an amazing series. Despite being 34 years old the Brazilian has been a breath of fresh air for the Rockets, off the bench he’s helped lift the team shooting a rather blistering 92% from the field.
Old-man Nene is spanking the Thunder to the tune of 157 offensive rating.
Everyone talks about what happens to the Thunder when Westbrook isn’t on the floor, but the real question might be, what about when Nene is on the bench.
Clint Capela who has been starting for the Rockets, outside of game one has been negative in each of the last three games.
Game four might have been the worst showing for Capela so far, and at one point late in the game when Nene got into foul trouble, Mike D’Antoni opted to play Ryan Anderson at center rather than put him back in.
With the Rockets having a chance to clinch the series on Tuesday in game five, the natural question is: should Nene be starting over Capela.
While it might be tempting to ride Nene until the wheels fall off, the Rockets seem to have him a little bit of a groove coming in giving Capela a spell.
The starting lineup has not been awful because Capela is in the game. The team looks bad because they can’t hit shots, Capela catches lobs and dunks, he’s not a shooter, he needs people to feed him the ball and the team’s 4.5 turnovers in the first quarter throughout the series isn’t helping him.
Nene has proven to be much more consistent than Capela, but injecting him to the starting lineup doesn’t mean Ryan Anderson or Trevor Ariza will start hitting shots which is the first unit’s real problem.
One of the things that has made Nene a factor this year is that the Rockets don’t overuse him. Throughout the season, Nene would rest often and he never played more than 30 minutes in a game, he actually only played over 25 minutes three times during the regular season.
Nene has been a big reason the Rockets are up on the Thunder 3-1, but he isn’t “the reason” he is a cog on the team’s machine like bench unit along with Eric Gordon and Lou Williams.
The three are helping the Rockets outlast the Thunder and moving Capela for Nene might help the starters, but it would certainly hurt the bench.
While it might be tempting to give Nene a try, keep things as is, don’t weaken the bench!