Can the Houston Rockets acquire Nene?

via the Denver Post:

Nene will opt out of the final year of his contract worth nearly $12 million and, as a result, become an unrestricted free agent, a source familiar with the situation said Wednesday night.

It means Nene can sign with any team he wishes without the Nuggets getting a chance to match the offer when free agency begins after the expected NBA lockout, which likely will start Friday.

The 28-year-old averaged 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season, shooting 62% from the field. Daryl Morey is likely salivating: Nene had the 5th highest PER among all centers in basketball and far and away the highest TS% at 66%.  If the current cap figures remain roughly the same, the Houston Rockets will have the ability to make a competitive offer though the Nuggets will have the ability to easily match; as an unrestricted free agent, the decision is ultimately Nene’s.

The first question is whether the Rockets will have interest.  Nene has not exactly been an ironman and at 28, he would figure to have only another three or four prime years remaining; Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, and Andris Biedrins are much younger, long-term options.  Signing Nene would signal the team’s intention to remain competitive in the interim rather than ushering in a full-on youth movement.  Would that be a wise decision?  I’m not sure, but I don’t think there’s any question it’s the route the Rockets hope to take.  They seem to prefer adding pieces and biding their time in wait for a superstar rather than hitting rock bottom; adding Nene to this core would instantly make the team competitive though not contenders.

Would Nene have interest?  That also remains to be seen.  He would likely be turning down a more lucrative offer from the Nuggets so the matter would depend on how the center felt about the Rockets.  Does Houston figure to be more competitive than Denver in the near future?

The Brazilian would instantly shore up the team’s interior defense, provide a post presence, and with his jaw-dropping efficiency, make what was at one point the league’s most efficient offense last season even more potent. The Rockets would almost certainly be in the playoff mix.

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