Finding value on the NBA free-agent market is a delicate art.
It makes or breaks franchises, propels or derails executive careers. It's also a highly subjective task, one that ebbs and flows between the varying levels of talent that are available and the changing costs needed to add players on either ends of the spectrum.
The Houston Rockets know all about the importance of high-end shopping and scouring the clearance section. They landed one of the two big fish at the top of the 2013 free-agent class in Dwight Howard. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, they just plucked a productive piece from the bargain bin:
Houston Rockets, I'm told, are wrapping up a deal with free agent Ronnie Brewer— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 19, 2013
Stein later added that Houston inked Brewer to a partially guaranteed two-year contract.
Brewer split last season between the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder, but struggled to see the floor in Oklahoma City. He averaged only 10.1 minutes in 14 regular-season games with the Thunder and only played in one of the team's 11 playoff games.
Prior to his disappearance down the stretch in 2012-13, though, Brewer had proven to be a reliable contributor over his first six seasons in the league. Versatility is not one of his strengths, but he has carved out his basketball niche as a hard-nosed, athletic defender.
In 2011-12, the last season where Brewer saw consistent playing time, the Windy City was where opposing shooting guards met their demise. Brewer, who logged nearly 25 minutes per game for the Chicago Bulls, held should-be scorers to a meager 11.5 player efficiency rating via 82games.com.
When those players were forced to attempt to create their own offense, their production was further sapped. Opposing off-guards shot just 26 percent on individually created field-goal attempts.
His athleticism is usually the first thing to catch an observer's eye, but his cerebral approach is often overlooked. He adjusts his game to the players and systems that he's facing, forcing opponents outside of their comfort zone and into inefficient areas of attack.
His career 1.3 steals per game may not seem like much, but he's tallied those thefts while logging just 23.8 minutes a night over his seven seasons in the league. He's got an instinctive feel for sniffing out his man's desired path to the basket, and he'll punish those that try to force drives into nonexistent lanes.
How heavily will Houston lean on Brewer?
He'll likely fight Francisco Garcia for the reserve stopper role. Garcia has a more well-rounded game, but Brewer is a superior one-on-one defender.
Outside of his defensive exploits, Brewer won't be bringing too much to Houston. His offensive creativity shines brightest in his ability to slash to the basket, but even then he's forced to rely on his teammates to hit him in stride.
He's not a rebounding presence but not a liability on the glass either (3.0 career rebounds per game). His passing ability is similarly mediocre (career 1.7 assists against 0.8 turnovers).
In other words, there's a reason that Brewer was still available this late in free agency.
But there's also a reason that Houston felt the need to add him to the roster. With the right blend of expectations and opportunity, Brewer could provide valuable production to the top-heavy Rockets.