Most indicators trended upwards over the past week as offense climbed from an impossible 27th to 17th and defense ticked up to 18th from 21st. Surprisingly, pace got even slower, slipping to 29th from 27th while field goal percentage remained dead last. That’s a surprise given the team’s recent success.
In Houston’s last seven games, the Rockets have the third best defense in the league with a defensive rating of 102.5. That probably is going to hold steady given the significant personnel changes: Carmelo Anthony and Michael Carter-Williams are definitively out and Gary Clark is firmly in. I suspect Gerald Green’s absence also has some impact here (the eye test!) but that won’t be sustainable. Mike D’Antoni is going to need one other cog in his rotation, whether it be Green or Brandon Knight. How that impacts things will be interesting.
Houston’s most heavily used quintet thus far is its preferred starting line up of Harden/Paul/Tucker/Ennis/Capela, and that group has posted a -3.6 net rating in 107 shared minutes. That’s good for 17th in the league among quintets playing at least 100 minutes. Take Ennis out and put in Clark, and you get a net rating of +44.7 in 18 minutes. Sub Paul out for Gordon, keep Clark in, and the result is a +9.7 in 17 minutes.
This is all to say that Gary Clark is likely to be the story of the season in a way unlike any Rockets rookie has been since maybe Chandler Parsons though in this case, he’s filling in as a key cog on a team that is coming off a 65 win season.
On a different note, you would think offense would start trending upwards eventually once Eric Gordon snaps out of it. Right? Right?