What happens when the threes start to fall?

The Houston Rockets are shooting over twenty-six three pointers per game, number which leads the league. The three pointer is an integral part of their efficiency-minded offense, a style which pushed them to an unlikely playoff run last season. By only attempting shots at the rim or behind the arc, the Rockets are at the forefront of a revolution in the shape of offense in the NBA. This revolution has definitely been televised, but it’s hit a snag in Houston. So far, the shots aren’t falling very well.

Last year, the Rockets shot 36.6% from deep on the season. This year, they’ve only managed a much more meager 32.9%. That’s only a change of about 4%, but in the cutthroat world of the NBA, 4% can be the difference between life or death, a lesson the Rockets have been learning the hard way in this season. The numbers are starting to even out, and may even settle at a higher number this year, given the improvement to Jeremy Lin’s shot form and the overall benefits of another year of improvement for such a young team. What happens, then, when the three pointers start to fall?

Here’s a little spoiler: if the Rockets shoot better, it’s good for them. The counter-argument would be that they might not improve their shot to 36.6% or better. It’s unlikely that this is just who they are, now, and there are good reasons to believe they’ll hit that mark. They’ve been finding open shots, though the offense has admittedly looked more reliant on isolation plays. As the offense comes together and more corner threes open up, that number will go up in the long term. Adding shooters like Omri Casspi certainly won’t decrease the three point percentage, and over a season, the mean will be regressed to. This time, the regression will go up.

Those 8.7 made three pointers a game account for about 26 points per game, about a quarter of their points per game. The difference between 32.9% shooting and 36.6% shooting seems minor, at first. That’s a mere shot per game more accurate; improving to last year’s standard would account for only one more success in each outing. It only lifts their points on threes to 29, and only lifts them up a couple spots in the three pointers made per game rankings. It’s an improvement, but how much would it really matter?

Here’s the abridged edition: the Rockets would be sitting at 9-2 right now if they had made one more three pointer per game. They would have flat out won against the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers if they had 3 more points, and not allowed for game-saving last second heroics. The games against the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks also would have been less stressful affairs, and the Rockets would have avoided to overtime periods worth of wear and tear against Philadelphia and Toronto.

The Rockets have been underperforming so far, and find themselves on the razor’s edge too often for comfort. The silver lining is that any tiny shift toward the good side of that razor will pay huge dividends. That 3.7% difference currently is the difference between Houston’s current 6th seed and a potential 2nd seed with a 9-2 record. The sample size is small so far, but the need to improve their shooting is real and impending. The Rockets won’t keep missing and they won’t keep taking bad shots. They showed last year that they can score at a high level, and there’s no reason they can’t or won’t return to that. One more shot per game can make all the difference.

 

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Total comments: 7
  • marbony81110 says 9 months ago

    Absolutely. But a lot (maybe the majority) of NBA defense depends on rotations. At this point I would speculate that at times the Rockets are missing the ideal defensive rotation. But over time with a vigilant coaching staff and player effort the rotations will improve.

    I have also noticed the defensive rotations aren't where they need to be yet. It is still early and I hope they can fix it. It will make everything so much easier and take some pressure off of the offense and the shooters. This team has chance to be great. I would hate to see the cause of underachievement be a simple thing like defensive rotations.

    I'm not a big fan of the Heat or Spurs, but they both play amazing defense. I wish the Rockets could play D close to that level by the time playoffs come around.

  • NorEastern says 9 months ago

    I agree. I'm not glad about the result, but these early season struggles have exposed some weaknesses defensively that the Rockets are better off addressing now. if our 3 point shooting covers it up it will not receive the proper focus and could come back to bite us later. We must learn how to win games when the shot isn't falling.

    Absolutely. But a lot (maybe the majority) of NBA defense depends on rotations. At this point I would speculate that at times the Rockets are missing the ideal defensive rotation. But over time with a vigilant coaching staff and player effort the rotations will improve.

  • rocketrick says 9 months ago

    Missing Delfino's 3P shot, so far.
    Hopefully, Casspi will turn it on soon. He shot well in pre-season.


    Delfino was signed by Milwaukee but is out for the entire season with that foot injury. Looks like Morey and the Rockets made the right decision in not bringing Carlos back. I believe Francisco and Omri can make up the difference for us this season plus I like Francisco's aggressive defense (when he's not getting beat).
  • rockets best fan says 9 months ago

    An increase in 3P% would be great, but a little better defense would go a long way. I'm noteven talking about a big jump in defensive intensity. I'm just talking about playing better defense on at least 5-8of however many posessions a game. That could negect their poor 3P shooting by taking some of the opponents points off the scoreboard.

    I agree. I'm not glad about the result, but these early season struggles have exposed some weaknesses defensively that the Rockets are better off addressing now. if our 3 point shooting covers it up it will not receive the proper focus and could come back to bite us later. We must learn how to win games when the shot isn't falling.

  • marbony81110 says 9 months ago

    An increase in 3P% would be great, but a little better defense would go a long way. I'm noteven talking about a big jump in defensive intensity. I'm just talking about playing better defense on at least 5-8of however many posessions a game. That could negect their poor 3P shooting by taking some of the opponents points off the scoreboard.

  • NorEastern says 9 months ago

    Thoughtful. I had been thinking along those same lines. Three points a game is huge over the course of a season.

  • Juan Grande says 9 months ago

    Missing Delfino's 3P shot, so far.

    Hopefully, Casspi will turn it on soon. He shot well in pre-season.