I’ve started digging into the numbers again, now that we’ve reached the quarter mark and at least built up a moderately representative sample of how things should look the rest of the way. I’ve been wanting to look into lineup data but Houston has shuffled so many different players in and out of their rotation due to injury that I don’t think any of those numbers will be probative on any front.
But with as much as has been made about Houston’s revamped defense, the team’s offense has changed quite significantly as well. Rob Dover highlighted some instances in his latest piece this Monday. The results have been different too. This year, Houston is 20th in the league in offensive rating, and are 15th in pace. Last year, they were fourth in offense, and fifth in pace. They’re playing slower, to be sure, but I’d surmise a portion of that efficiency dip can be attributed to the ugly stretch they played against the likes of the Sixers. They’ve also been adjusting on the fly to rapidly changing frontcourt rotations; last season, the team enjoyed relative stability.
Apologetics aside, despite the dip, I think the team’s offense this year is much better served for the long run. Last year, while they put up tons of points, the system essentially amounted to, it seemed, run the ball up, jack up a ‘3’, or let Harden ISO. Even Harden ISOs this year seem to all be coming at the end of the shot clock rather than the beginning. The nature of their scheme was why, I’ve posited, they were so easy to load up on and stop in crunch time. (The numbers back that up). While they may not be scoring as much over the course of the game this year, they are also better equipped at the end of the game.
A few numbers that I don’t know what to make of: Houston is 14th in the league in passes per game. The top four are the Jazz, Knicks, Spurs, and 76ers, so I’m not sure what that even means. Houston is sandwiched in between the Warriors and Grizzlies, so they clearly are doing something right, I’d think.
The Warriors lead the league in secondary assists per game, with Houston coming in at 12th. This means that the guy passing the ball to the guy who got the assist, for the Warriors, isn’t holding onto it much. This is where I would like to see Houston’s offense become more advanced. Rather than just penetrating and passing the ball out, instances like this involve complex sequences where the initial pass sets up the next. My favorite example of something like this has been where, after receiving the ball off the roll on the pick and roll, Motiejunas has taken a few dribbles, and then hit a cutter coming baseline. Unfortunately, he’s the only big on this team capable of making that play, whereas, practically everyone on the Warriors can pass.