The Numbers Game: Houston Rockets edition


The Houston Rockets are a team built on analytics from the number of three-pointers they take a game. To the players, they draft everything the Rockets do is calculated to optimize their championship window. This season is no different and there are negative numbers that can doom the Rockets chances and positive numbers that can lead them to a championship.

First off numbers that will help the Rockets advance in the playoffs

Houston Rockets increased pace

There has been a misnomer about the Rockets for years. The misnomer is that the current Rockets were like Mike D’Antoni Phoenix Suns teams. They wanted to get up shots in seven seconds or less. The Rockets last year was 27th in pace of play and middle of the pack the year before. This tells you that this current Rockets team was nothing like those Suns teams.

This year with the addition of Rusell Westbrook the Rockets are currently number three in pace of play at 105.43. The faster pace fits Westbrook style more than halfcourt offense. It also gives players like Tucker and House wide open threes on the fastbreak. Harden, of course, has no problem playing isolation basketball but the increased pace also makes his life easier as well.

Defensive Rating

The one knock that has followed D Antoni to whatever team he has been on is lack of defense. Two years ago when the Rockets set a franchise record for wins they had a top-seven defense. Last year they started off the season very slow on defense but finished strong to end the year. This season it was another abysmal start on defense. They game up 158 points to the Wizards and were near the bottom in every defensive category the first six games.

Even though the Nuggets snapped there winning streak the Rockets in the last nine games have the third-best defensive rating. The improvement started with the most basic skill playing harder.

In the video, you see how the Rockets are communicating better on switches and just flat out hustling more. This along with Clint Capela getting healthier after having shoulder injuries earlier in the year have improved the defense significantly.

Numbers that will doom the Houston Rockets if they continue

Scoring other than from Harden

Two years ago the Rockets were one game from the NBA Finals. That was the first year of the Chris Paul and James Harden pairing. For years the Rockets tried to find someone to alleviate the pressure off of Harden. Paul was the first real solution to that problem. Unfortunately, we all know how that ended and in came Westbrook.

This year when Harden is on the court the offensive rating is 112.4 off the court it is 105.6. They go from a positive net rating of over eight to a negative net rating of six when he is off the court.

The problem is not just when Harden off the court it is also when teams aggressively double team Harden and leave his teammates wide open.

As you can see in the video Denver made it a point to get the ball out of Harden’s hands and force other people to beat them. Take out Harden 8-16 and the rest of the Rockets were 24-60 from the field. This will be a strategy going forward for most teams take Harden out of the game and force his teammates to step up. This problem may be alleviated when Eric Gordon is back but it is a tactic that won’t go away.

Three-Point shooting

What it always comes back to when talking about the Rockets 3-point shooting. Its the Rockets identity what the hang there hat on game in and game out. If the Rockets make their shots from deep they are almost unbeatable if not well you know the result. The Rockets to start the season were off from deep shooting under 30 percent from three in the first six games. During the eight-game winning streak, it was over 36 percent which for the volume the Rocket shoot is pretty good.

For the season it is still below 34 percent and as was evident last night if they are not making their 3 pointers it is more than likely leading to a loss. If the Rockets don’t continue to improve there percentage it will be an up and down year.

Daryl Morey has built the Rockets based on numbers. Sometimes these numbers can make you an elite basketball team but sometimes they can point out flaws as well.

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