We may forget it from time to time, but there are other players on the Rockets besides James Harden.
Harden dropped 24 points tonight, but by his ludicrous standards did not score all that well. He took 17 free throws and shot just 4-11 from the field. Dallas was aggressive with the double team and absolutely determined to make the rest of the Rockets beat them tonight.
And that is what the rest of the Rockets did. Terrence Jones came close to a triple double, Jason Terry and Trevor Ariza blazed from three, and Corey Brewer was the hero of the fourth quarter. And while it is far too easy to massively extrapolate from just one game, there is one thing that is patently clear: the Mavericks may have an answer for James Harden. But they are as helpless as a newborn kitten in trying to stop Dwight Howard.
McGuire: The Houston Rockets saw a lot of Hack-a-whoever in the last few weeks of the regular season, and there is no doubt Rick Carlisle will use a ton of it against the Rockets. How concerned are you about this, and are you starting to believe that the rules need to be changed to deal with it?
Rahat: It has kept me up at night, admittedly. But I don’t think it warrants changing the rules. If people don’t like it, they need to step up and make their free throws.
Walker: It might hurt the Rockets, and it might hurt them badly. That’s the boring part. The interesting part is what happens if Houston gets waylaid by this as badly as people are worrying. This is a metagame issue, and metagame is critically important for all games and rule sets, even in sports. Sports fans and personalities seem allergic to any discussion of metagame to the point that its very existence is denied, but this facet won’t be denied.
When changing a rule, you have to examine not just what you want to change, but what the rule currently advantages and disadvantages and weigh that against what the proposed change would do. The current rule set effectively punishes poor free throw shooting. Nobody is arguing about on-ball fouls, for whatever reason, so let’s stick with off ball fouls.
In a hypothetical new situation, free throw shooting would be a less valuable skill, as long as someone on the team can do it. How much less valuable, though? Probably not a lot. These cases are already fairly liminal. The biggest change would be that big men don’t have to spend quite as much effort and time on their free throws. I don’t see why anyone cares either way how good centers are at free throws. Maybe this lets them work more on footwork or team defense.
I’ve thought about this issue to the point that I don’t care about it any more. It’s annoying to watch and I don’t think it would affect much more, so I guess change it. It doesn’t really matter.
The Rockets finished the regular season using their bench 35% of the time, which ranked 4th from last place. The Rockets bench had a net rating of 2.1, which ranked 11th in the league. Click on the graphic below for a complete visual representation of the league’s bench usage and effectiveness.
Click for a full-sized interactive version