Kenneth Faried
Kenneth Faried has made the Rockets dangerous again. Can #Rockets50 challenge Golden State in the playoffs again? (Eric Christian Smith/AP Photo)

The Houston Rockets had the Warriors beat a year ago. Houston was one Chris Paul injury away from winning the NBA Title. Then, Houston panicked. They lost Luc Mbah a Moute, Trevor Ariza and its identity along with them. Houston lost length and defense that made them so dangerous against the Warriors. The Rockets solution to those departures was Carmelo Anthony. As expected, the Rockets crumbled every time Carmelo saw the floor. To Daryl Morey’s credit, while adding cancerous Carmelo was always a terrible idea, Morey admitted his mistake early and cut bait.

The Rockets struggled early in the season to find that late mojo that had them grooving in the playoffs. Morey kept tinkering, kept adding, kept trying. Eventually, Morey found the perfect guy and it was a guy that should have been more loved around the league, Kenneth Faried. The Rockets finally inserted Faried into the starting lineup and they struck gold. Kenneth Faried has made the Rockets dangerous again.

I never understood why the Nuggets gave up on Faried. The former Morhead State first round pick was a monster in the Olympics. You don’t go to the Olympics with team USA and dominate the way he did on a team filled with All-Stars. Just doesn’t happen but Faried did that. He returned to the Nuggets after the Olympics and did nothing. That’s on Denver. After Denver added Paul Millsap, Faried’s minutes deteriorated and so did his play. The Nuggets even gave him away to the Nets in a salary dump. Even the Nets couldn’t find minutes for him. It’s a phenomenon I never understood.

Faried finally found a home with the Rockets and he’s flourished. In 14 games with Houston, Faried is averaging 16 points, a .609 field goal percentage, .455 percent from 3-point range, and 9.9 rebounds per game. That’s over close to 30 minutes per game. With Faried in the lineup, the Rockets no longer have rebounding issues with Clint Capela at the 5 and P.J. Tucker at the 3.

What’s better is that they match up better with the Warriors than they did a year ago. Tucker still defends Kevin Durant as well as anyone else can. Capela can win the matchup against DeMarcus Cousins. Austin Rivers has actually been productive and can be a pest to Steph Curry. Eric Gordon is still a threat for 3. Chris Paul is healthy… for now. James Harden can morph into the best offensive player in any given series. Even Iman Shumpert can become that Trevor Ariza type of guy. The only difference is Kenneth Faried gives the Rockets that edge that takes them over the top again. Faried can rebound the basketball at an elite level and convert easy field goals around the rim that Houston hasn’t been getting prior to Faried’s arrival.

I’m not saying the Rockets will beat Golden State this year but make no mistake about it – Nobody in the West has a better chance to beat the Warriors than Houston does. Houston is 3-0 against Golden State this year for whatever that is worth. Barring a major injury, Houston will return to the Conference Finals. The Kenneth Faried addition has made that possible.