In four games since joining the Rockets center Kenneth Faried is averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds. That is essentially double his output for the rest of the season with Brooklyn. Austin Rivers is averaging 11 points and 3.5 assists in his 17 games with the Rockets compared to 7 points and 2 assists with the Wizards for the rest of the season.
Some of the improvement is the result of greater playing time thanks to injuries. Faried took over for Clint Capela and Rivers filled in for an injured Chris Paul. But, both integrated so quickly, it clearly had an impact on not just keeping the Rockets above water while dealing with health issues across the roster, but giving them a 13-5 record over their last 18 games.
And not to take away what Rivers and Faried have done, because it speaks well of them for having adapted so quickly, but fans can thank Daryl Morey and Mike D'Antoni not just for picking up help when the team needed it, but picking the right help.
First there was Rivers. Despite a recent shooting slump — maybe a degree of regression to the mean from his torrid shooting pace — he rapidly became one of the team's most valuable offensive players. His ability to get his own shot, facilitate for others and hit open jumpers was invaluable from the moment he put on a Rockets uniform. That is saying nothing of the above average defense he brings at his position.
Then, Faried. The guy probably hasn't even found a place to live yet and he's fit in perfectly. Essentially, he's a poor man's Clint Capela. He doesn't have the height or the defensive skills, but he's a rebounding machine — more instinctive than Capela in that regard — and a perfect complement to get to the rim on pick and rolls. When it comes to the familiar James Harden-to-Capela alley-oop, Faried's addition makes it as if the injured center never hurt his thumb.
More importantly than just what the two have provided since joining the team is the depth they will provide as the Rockets get healthy. Rivers gives them depth at guard they frankly haven't had in several seasons. There is little defensive drop off and a competent shooting stroke to fill in the gaps for Paul and Harden (and Gordon). Faried provides a mini Capela who maybe can't defend at the same level, but certainly can rebound and help create easy assist opportunities for the guards.
All this both means the team gets better and, maybe the most critical component of all, will have an opportunity to rest guys as the season goes on. Harden, in particular, needs to have his minutes capped somewhat to save some of his strength for the postseason.
For as great as Harden has been — and it is almost impossible to overstate it at this point — the team's lack of depth continued to be a problem. Yet, somehow, halfway through the season, the additions of Rivers and Faried seem to have turned a weakness into a strength.