Is it time to panic?

The season is over halfway done. The All-Star Break often serves as shorthand for the season’s halfway point, but February 14th is actually well past the 41-game mark. No, the season is already on the other side of the hill, and the league is largely taking shape. Oklahoma City and Indiana demolish all opponents while Milwaukee and Sacramento continue to barely hang on. Are the Houston Rockets members of the elite four, or is it time to hit the panic button?

The good news is that the Rockets are better this year than last year. The bad news is that they aren’t as dominant as many predicted them to be. At 27-15, the Rockets have managed only a fifth seed so far. For a team that wants to see the conference finals, being on pace for barely 50 wins is something of a disappointment. Last Thursday’s game against the Thunder serves as a microcosm of the season to date. Houston shows great potential, but can’t seem to unleash their skill for any extended period of time. Inexperience and nerves take over, and turnovers fall from the skies.

The skies, however, may not be falling themselves. Houston might not be a world-slayer, but they’ve managed a few notable feats. Houston owns a 7-2 record against their own Southwest Division, an impressive total, despite the fact that Dallas owns those two losses. The Rockets have cleaned the clock of the Spurs repeatedly and are capable of taking over games. Unfortunately, Harden in particular tends to overestimate his ability to dominate, resulting in wasted possessions and worrying late-game turnovers.

Equally importantly, Houston had amazing luck with injury last season. This year, the Rockets have fought through injury after injury, including some critical pieces. Patrick Beverley and Ömer Aşık are starter-caliber players who have been sitting for long stretches. Only one player on the team has been ready and suited up every game, and that’s the seemingly indestructible Dwight Howard. Parsons missed time in which the Rockets floundered, and James Harden was sorely missed during his struggles with ankle and foot issues.

So is it time to go nuts? If it wasn’t obvious, the answer is no. Houston is right on track towards a trip to the finals. That trip might take a couple years and a few trades to reach, but it’s on the table. The reason the Rockets have been so disappointing is that they haven’t particularly exceeded expectations. Time and again, general manager Daryl Morey and his Rockets have gone farther faster than anyone could have hoped for. This time, however, it’s not happening again. It’s possible that a major trade changes all of this in the next month. As it stands, however, the Rockets aren’t going above and beyond. This year, good enough might just be good enough.

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Total comments: 15
  • rockets best fan says 2 months ago

  • thejohnnygold says 2 months ago

    Johnny, you miss two part by saying Rockets are #2 in defensive rebound

    1. they played more game than anyone so far and only behind 1 team in total minutes.

    2. they are top 5 in keeping the opponents from making buckets per shot.

    This combined means they have much more defensive rebound opportunity than anyone else in the league. which means you can not use total rebound to measure their success.

    By % the Rockets are 9th in offensive rebound per attempt, but 24th in defensive rebound per attempt, that's what we're referring to.

    The Rockets get to rebounds at a poor rate, but they have a loooot of chances. This is why the Rockets give up a lot of points despite pretty good points per possession allowed. they simply always allow opponents to have more possession.

    I missed nothing of the sort--I included all that and more. It's all right there in my post. I started with the totals and quickly turned to the percentages. Re-read the second paragraph. Sure it would be nice to have a league leading dreb. rate, but the gap between us and Indiana (1st) is not that big and I do not think it affects our win/loss column very much.

    Every offensive rebound given up is frustrating, but they will happen. The majority of the bad ones, if we are going to isolate a scapegoat, are due to Dwight over-rotating on help defense and leaving his man alone for an easy off. rebound/putback. Those I could do without--especially since when he does get the help block he usually just bats it out of bounds which just gives them the ball back. Really not much to be gained by doing this. I'd rather he faked the help defense--just enough to make the shooter think about it--and then get back and box out his man.

    EDIT: Also, if we are going to include our excellent def. fg% then we have to allow for the fact that the opposing offense is getting more rebounding chances as well. Some of those balls are going to bounce into the wrong hands. Especially given that teams are taking more outside shots against us (about 1 out of every 4 is a 3 pointer) which produce long rebounds that go over our guys' heads. Every year the benchmark for def. reb supremacy tops out around 75% or so. That's just how it goes.

    I get the point--I just disagree that it is indicative of any problems we have. I think our problems lie elsewhere.

  • RollingWave says 2 months ago


    Guys, how much better do we want our rebounding to be? Did anyone check to see where we rank? According to Basketball-Reference.com we rank 2nd overall in the league, 2nd in defensive rebounding, and 13th in offensive rebounding. We are also 1st in blocks (just thought I'd throw that in). Granted, these are volume numbers and our 5th ranked def. fg% would produce extra opportunities (especially considering we are ranked 30th in # of shots taken against us--which paired with that low fg% is a recipe for rebounds!), however, our 3rd ranked off. fg% takes opportunities off the table so we'll call it even.

    Still, our Dreb% is 73.2% (24th) and offensive is 27.3% (9th). The margins on this are fairly small. The defensive reb % range goes from 76.9% to 70.1% with the league average at 74.4%. Quick math--we are 2.5% from being tops in the league. Adding 1 percentage point will move you up about 8 spots in the ranking--it's that close. Given our pace, this means we need to grab 3 extra rebounds a game (more or less) to move into that top %. I'm not too stressed about those 3 rebounds.

    If we want to talk extra possessions then we need to look at those turnovers. We rank 27th in giving it up and also 27th in getting them back. That's not good.

    Here, this LINK has all kinds of fun team stats that are easily sorted including some strength of schedule stuff that implies the Rockets 2nd half of the season should be better than the first :)

    Johnny, you miss two part by saying Rockets are #2 in defensive rebound

    1. they played more game than anyone so far and only behind 1 team in total minutes.

    2. they are top 5 in keeping the opponents from making buckets per shot.

    This combined means they have much more defensive rebound opportunity than anyone else in the league. which means you can not use total rebound to measure their success.

    By % the Rockets are 9th in offensive rebound per attempt, but 24th in defensive rebound per attempt, that's what we're referring to.

    The Rockets get to rebounds at a poor rate, but they have a loooot of chances. This is why the Rockets give up a lot of points despite pretty good points per possession allowed. they simply always allow opponents to have more possession.

  • thejohnnygold says 2 months ago

    Guys, how much better do we want our rebounding to be? Did anyone check to see where we rank? According to Basketball-Reference.com we rank 2nd overall in the league, 2nd in defensive rebounding, and 13th in offensive rebounding. We are also 1st in blocks (just thought I'd throw that in). Granted, these are volume numbers and our 5th ranked def. fg% would produce extra opportunities (especially considering we are ranked 30th in # of shots taken against us--which paired with that low fg% is a recipe for rebounds!), however, our 3rd ranked off. fg% takes opportunities off the table so we'll call it even.

    Still, our Dreb% is 73.2% (24th) and offensive is 27.3% (9th). The margins on this are fairly small. The defensive reb % range goes from 76.9% to 70.1% with the league average at 74.4%. Quick math--we are 2.5% from being tops in the league. Adding 1 percentage point will move you up about 8 spots in the ranking--it's that close. Given our pace, this means we need to grab 3 extra rebounds a game (more or less) to move into that top %. I'm not too stressed about those 3 rebounds.

    If we want to talk extra possessions then we need to look at those turnovers. We rank 27th in giving it up and also 27th in getting them back. That's not good.

    Here, this LINK has all kinds of fun team stats that are easily sorted including some strength of schedule stuff that implies the Rockets 2nd half of the season should be better than the first :)

  • Steven says 2 months ago

    Asik will massively help defensive rdbounding.

    Not in his suit. He wont play in 10 more games as a Rocket. He is Scottie Pippen without the talent. Hopefully Morey gets more then Carroll Dawson did for Pippen.
  • Buckko says 2 months ago Asik will massively help defensive rdbounding.
  • RollingWave says 2 months ago

    FWIW we're .651 winning % overall

    We're .653 in games where Beverley played (though that includes game 1 win where he got hurt after 10 min.)

    We're .648 in games where Harden played

    We're .666 in games where Lin played (though that also include a win where he got hurt early.)

    We're .684 in games where Parsons played

    So yeah... the good news is that this team shows a lot of depth and balance that they're not screwed by losing 1 or 2 guys. even if its' their best player. the bad news is that they also havn't been that much better when everyone's healthy. (though i should note that looking at Portland's differntial and overall defense, I highly suspect they'll come down at least a bit in the 2nd half.)

    In short, as long as we don't end up with Dwight AND Asik missing a significant chunk at the same time, we'll probably still be a top 4 seed, maybe 3rd if things break our way a bit more.

    My primary concern remains that our defensive rebound is surprisingly bad, this is more of a scheme thing than a talent thing. we already cough up too many extra possession on turnovers that we can not also give up even more of them no offensive rebounds. Jones and Dmo need to box out a lot better. and the wings / guards need to not be THAT leaky happy, have a plan where 1 guy leak and 2 guy go for the reboun, right now it seems all 3 stand there or leak. our Points allowed per possesion is also tied into this, since your obviously a lot more likely to score in put backs when our d setup is all out of sorts. I suspect if we run a stat on our defense in the initial possession it rank a lot better than it is now.

  • Buckko says 2 months ago Oh Steven, you're such a jokester.
  • Steven says 2 months ago

    Don't compare demo to asik, not even the same ball park friend.

    You're right. D-Mo is younger with a higher upside, cheaper and willing to wait his turn to play. I shouldn't denigrate his name comparing him to Asik.
  • Buckko says 2 months ago Don't compare demo to asik, not even the same ball park friend.
  • Steven says 2 months ago

    Well we're getting asik back in a couple months RBF


    Not if D-Mo keeps improving. Then Asik will get his wish and be shipped off to start on some basement dweller in the East.
  • Buckko says 2 months ago Well we're getting asik back in a couple months RBF
  • MrLobble says 2 months ago

    lol at some of the analogies above :D

  • rockets best fan says 2 months ago

    I also agree no need for panic. this is where I trust Morey. we are a couple of pieces away from a serious playoff run. we have movable assets. many have been clamoring for Morey to make a move. well...............take a lesson in GM 101. over the course of watching Morey he has taught me some lessons about how he has become one of the more talented GM's in the league

    1. stay still.....never move when they think you have to move. this leads to making bad deals.

    2. on every deal you do even the ones you think are very good .....always leave a backdoor escape clause.

    3. never allow your trade talks (as much as you can control it) toleak into the media

    4. flexibility is not just a catchy phrase.....it's the gold standard under the new CBA

    5. don't overpay. it's easy to fall in love with a player, but if he's not a star don't pay him like one. a player may provide the intangibles you think you need, but if the price ain't right pass on the deal

    6. talent development (If your drafting outside the top 10) of young players carries equal weight with getting good prospects. just think of how many players who have come through our system thatare still in the league.

    Morey will fix or at least address our weaknesses prior to the trade dead line. this is not the team that will enter the playoffs. sure the primary pieces are in place, but we always knew there would be adjustments along the way. one of the two or both Asik and Lin will be moved before the deadline, but it won't be a fire sale. Morey expects a dollar for a dollar on each. I suspect Morey is waiting for a star player or at least high impact player to become available before exposing his hand. change is coming I can feel the disturbance in the force :lol:

    I know some of you really believe Asik is hurt.........I don't. he is being kept away from the team because of his negative behavior can not be tolerated. I don't have any facts indicating such, but it'sjust my gut feeling.IMO the Rocket are still attempting to salvage him, but time is running out. he will either conform or be discarded. we can not and will not continue to pay his contract if we are getting no production. at this point we are getting nothing. even if it means moving him for draft picks and cap relief his situation will be turned into a plus for our team. I'm still for salvaging him at this point and trading Lin, but everyday that passes with no resolution lessens the chances that will happen. however getting back on topic. panicking at this point is unwarranted. we are looking like the unfinished product that we are

  • feelingsupersonic says 2 months ago I definitely agree there is no need to panic, the Rockets are on schedule. It will take a couple of big failures in the post season for the leaders and players on this team to grow into a cohesive group that makes serious deep runs and Finals appearances. Most of the cores in the Western Conference have more experience together and considering Howard and Harden have about a half of a season together they are doing well so far. This is a young team that is well on its way.