Defense: Performance, Consistency, and Trends

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Measuring individual defense is tricky. Even our primary defensive measure, points allowed per 100 possessions (defensive rating), is arguably more dependent upon what other people do than what the player of interest does or does not do. For instance, I am confident that a lineup consisting of Francisco Garcia, me, my fat neighbor, and his two obnoxious little children could achieve pretty good individual defensive ratings if we were on the floor while JR Smith decided to go on one of his epic three-point chucking expeditions. Garcia would just stand still in front of Smith while the rest of us eat nachos in the corner. A defensive rating of  no more than 70 would be guaranteed for all of us.

For this reason, I created a new defensive measure, called net defensive rating. It is calculated by subtracting the team’s defensive rating for one game from an individual player’s defensive rating for that same game (player’s defensive rating – team defensive rating). Basically it compares a player’s defensive rating to his team’s defensive rating in order to better separate individual performance from team performance. The above charts show the net defensive ratings for each game for nine Houston Rockets players, their average net defensive ratings for the season, and the standard deviations for their net defensive ratings (as a measure of consistency).

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in essays

DwightLife: Dwight Howard’s Curse

Dwight Howard’s arrival in Houston signals the arrival of one of the most dominant players in basketball, along with one of the most polarizing personalities in sports. Here at Red94, we are embracing the drama of Superman’s first season as a Rocket with a weekly column: “DwightLife.” This is the 12th installment.

What a difference a year makes.

Exactly one year ago, Dwight returned from injury to help Lakers end a 6-game losing streak by beating the Cavs. That was the 16-21 Lakers over the 9-30 Cavs, and it was kind of a big deal at the time. [read more…]

in columns

The Houston Rockets are getting into a nasty habit. They gave up another 20 point lead to let an Atlantic Division team creep within single digits. The good news is that the Boston Celtics never regained a lead in the second half, unlike the Washington Wizards in the previous game. The bad news is that the Celtics are quite a bit worse than the Wizards, and should have been an even easier out. Unfortunately, a combination of factors culminated in this cakewalk starting and ending more like a steep mountain hike.

The easy answer for what the Rockets did wrong was that they let the Celtics scoop up offensive rebounds. Boston had 15 on the night while the Rockets had 10. Plenty of sequences saw Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk grabbing easy rebounds off Celtics misses with red jerseys standing helplessly. Some of this can be attributed to size differential, as the Rockets were happy to go small, even running Terrence Jones as the center for a while. The Celtics kept larger players on the floor, and survived off of rebounds in the first quarter. This doesn’t explain the fourth quarter, however, when the Rockets suddenly lost the ability to play basketball and instead simply turned the ball over repeatedly while Jerry Bayless went off.

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