Future hall of famer and NBA champion Richard Jefferson went on “The Jump” and made some pretty grand statements. While lamenting over the recent poor defensive performance of the Houston Rockets, he also indicated that they will not have a successful season this year.
“I hate to tell good people bad things but your team is not going to do much.”
As early season reactionary punditry goes, this is pretty mild. However, it’s worth diving into what the Rockets have actually brought to the table thus far into the season. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Russell Westbrook has been incredible. He is currently averaging 23.4 points per game while shooting a career-high 48% from the floor. He is also averaging 9.8 assists per game and 11.0 rebounds per game. If he were to keep this up, it would be the second-most rebounds he has ever averaged in a season. Better yet, he is averaging 2.6 offensive rebounds per game, another career high. Additionally, he is averaging 3.6 turnovers per game, which would be his lowest mark in seven years.
According to inpredictable.com, he is also eighth in the entire NBA in winning percentage added (WPA). He has been sensational and his success is determined by his pace and urgency on the court.
There is no better representation of the yin and yang that James Harden and Russell Westbrook bring than the clip above. After Harden misses the dunk, Westbrook immediately finds a lane to finish with contact. This is a tremendous example of the athleticism and unilateral aggressiveness that Westbrook has.
Once again, here he is, sprinting up the floor to take advantage of a poorly set defense and find a cutting Harden.
Again, here he is taking a rebound and immediately looking for a cutting player.
This level of urgency is refreshing for a team that has relished playing with a slower pace. As of right now, the Rockets have the highest pace in the NBA. Just last year they had the fourth lowest pace in the NBA.
There was a lot of talk about Russell Westbrook going into this season regarding his horrendous three point shooting ability, especially by the writer of this article. While his perimeter shooting has not improved (he is currently shooting 27%), he is just taking 4.4 threes a game, more than one less per game than last year. He is actively making changes to the way he plays in order to provide a better outcome for the team.
The Houston Rockets have a defensive rating of 115.9, which is second worst in the NBA, right above the Warriors. And all it really takes is a cursory watching of the game versus the Wizards to understand how dire the situation is.
The Rockets, as a team, allow the third highest FG percentage from the 25-29 feet distance and the third highest FG percentage from shots 10-14 feet away. Teams are just absolutely decimating them from deep.
For example, Kyrie Irving was able to take advantage of lazy half-court defense here and take easy, poorly contested perimeter shots during their last game.
Here, Joe Harris becomes wide open after Houston’s defense completely loses track of the sharp shooter.
Eric Gordon has been atrocious to start this season. He is currently averaging 10.4 points per game on 28.6% shooting from the floor and 23.9% shooting from deep. His player efficiency rating is 3.3.
For everyone’s sake, let’s hope he trends dramatically upwards.