Since the trade by the Houston Rockets for Robert Covington sending Clint Capela to the Hawks the same question has been asked. How are the Rockets going to stop the Lakers, Jazz, Nuggets all teams with large frontcourts? The running joke is that the Rockets will never grab another rebound. Most people believe the Rockets don’t have a chance vs the Los Angles Lakers massive frontcourt. What people are failing to realize is the Lakers have to match up with the Rocket’s small-ball lineup as well. The first test is tonight in the big TNT matchup tonight when the Rockets take on the Lakers.
How the Houston Rockets will force the Lakers and other teams to adjust to them
The trade deadline has not passed yet so there is a chance the Rockets will make a move for a center. But with salary limitations who ever they trade for probably wont be starting most games. With that in mind the Rockets will start 6-ft-5 P.J. Tucker at the center position with James Harden switching onto centers some of the game. The Rockets will be out rebounded most nights but teams will not be able to pack the paint. The philosophy of three is better than two is nothing new for the Rockets they have lived that for years now. The difference is now they will have five players on the court who can shoot from deep instead of Capela rolling to the basket.
Teams like the Lakers will have to take their center off the court if the Rockets are making their 3-pointers. If not the Rockets will continue to take advantage of players like JaVale Mcghee and Dwight Howard who cant guard players outside. The Rockets were already an elite offense before going to this type of lineup and now they may be even more potent. Rockets lineups with Tucker at center have averaged nearly nine points more per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass, than with Capela, and 13 points more than lineups with Capela, Harden and Westbrook together.
With wide-open lanes and players who can shoot at every position, the Rockets will have the number one offense going forward for the rest of the season. The Rockets were already a top-three team in
How will the Rockets fare on defense?
Of course, having an ultra-small lineup can have some drawbacks. Specifically protecting the paint and rebounding. The last few games the Rockets have won without Capela they have been severely outrebounded. Especially in the first half of games. The last three games all wins the Rockets are being out-rebounded by an average of over 15 rebounds a game. The positive to a smaller lineup though is that the Houston Rockets switch defense works even better now. The Rockets are a switching team. With the addition of Covington, the Rockets can easily switch one through five without any issues.
The Rocket’s ability to force turnovers has increased since going to the small-ball lineup. When facing teams like the Lakers it is imperative that the Rockets get teams out on the break from forcing turnovers. Also what needs to be factored into this lineup is Harden’s ability to guard bigger post players. Harden is one of the top post defenders in the league by any measure.
Tonight is the first test for the Rockets small-ball lineup when they travel to LA to take on the Lakers. The Lakers didn’t have Anthony Davis the last time these teams met so this will be a great measuring stick for the Rockets.
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