2016-17 Houston Rockets Season Preview: Don’t Expect Any Defense

The Dunkyard’s NBA season preview continues, with the Houston Rockets.

Last season by the numbers

  • Record: 41-41 (8th West)
  • Offensive rating: 105.5 (8th)
  • Defensive rating: 105.6 (20th)
  • Pace: 100.1 (7th)
  • True shooting: 55.3% (6th)
  • Turnover rate: 14.2% (25th)
  • Offensive rebounding: 25.7% (6th)
  • Defensive rebounding: 72.8% (30th)
  • Giveashitameter: 15th
  • Highest PER*: 25.3 (Harden)

(*) – minimum 1,000 minutes.

At a glance

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Recap

Fresh off the previous season’s over achievement of making the conference finals, the Rockets disappointed in every conceivable way last season.

On offense, the Rockets were great at putting the ball in the hole, ranking 6th on true shooting percentage. The main reason for this was their almost religious like aversion to shooting midrange jump shots. While the picky shot selection resulted in efficient shooting, it did also result in the Rockets ranking 25th at looking after the ball. Lawson, Howard and Smith were absolute catastrophes here and Harden (ranked 65th out off 77 shooting guards) wasn’t much better.

If the Rockets could have looked after the ball better, their offense would easily have been elite. As it stands, they were merely B+.

On the defensive end, the Rockets were awful. On the perimeter, they ranked 28th and 29th on three point makes and attempts allowed, while ranking 21st on three point percentage allowed (36.1%). The story wasn’t much better on the inside, with the Rockets ranking 24th on two point percentage allowed (50.4%) and 24th on free throw attempts allowed.

To cap it all off, the Rockets had the league’s worst defensive rebounding rate. The fact that they managed to achieve this with Howard ranking 5th among all centers was remarkable – but that’s what happens when you don’t have a real power forward on the team.

Reasons to be optimistic

Dwight Howard’s farts and less than professional attitude are gone. On the court, this will mean that the Rockets won’t have to deal with Howard’s persistent demands for the ball in the post and his unacceptably high turnover rate and general offensive inefficiency. In exchange, the Rockets now have Anderson, Gordon and Nene and will be able to play the style of offense they’ve always wanted.

Reasons not to be

The Rockets’ main problems weren’t offensive, but defensive. Swapping Howard for Anderson, Gordon and a 34 year old Nene isn’t going to help and will probably make things worse. For all his faults, Howard was still a decent defender and machine on the boards and Capela is some way off replicating this at this stage of his career.

The Rockets still don’t have a real point guard. As good as Harden is (for a shooting guard) at creating with the ball in his hands, the fact remains that his back court help can best be described as flotsam.

Major Ins 

Ryan Anderson, Nene, Eric Gordon

Major Outs

Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Jason Terry, Michael Beasley, Marcus Thornton.

The Dunkyard’s recommended ‘death’ lineup

  • Gordon
  • Harden
  • Ariza
  • Anderson
  • Capela

Dave’s lowdown

As a Rocket’s fan, it’s difficult for me to hide my excitement at the possibilities that lie ahead now that Mike D’Antoni is Head Coach. The talk of moving Harden to full-time PG duties, surrounding him with additional shooters in Gordon and Anderson and watching the team thrive in D’Antoni’s pick’n’roll-centric offense has me dreaming of reaching the Western Conference summit while averaging 130ppg.

As a basketball fan, I’m worried that D’Antoni’s brilliant offensive mind, that was as sharp as a steel trap in his Phoenix Suns glory days, may have been left outside so long that it’s rusted shut. After last season’s chemistry and effort issues it seems safe to say that Houston is primed to improve, however if they don’t Harden won’t have any sulking and immature 7-footers to lay the blame on.

Forecast record: 44-38

The Rockets will blow some teams away with their offense. However, defensive issues will keep them inconsistent and hold them back from achieving anything serious. A 6th or 7th seed and first round matchup against anyone other than the Warriors would be a success.

In the meantime, Houston’s search for a real second star continues. Finding one that can play some defense would be handy too.