I’m not quite sure what a “significantly partially guaranteed” contract entails, but rest assured, it indicates this marriage might not be permanent.
Anderson was last seen in a Rockets uniform being tortured by Steph Curry in a two minute Game 7 span in 2018 which still makes me wake up in cold sweats. There’s a clip somewhere on YouTube of that stretch which I argued may have cost Houston the championship that season. That the Rockets were even in it that late without Chris Paul is remarkable; that their depth had thinned to the point that Anderson was brought in from the bullpen is jarring. Curry’s eyes lit up and the rest is history. The entire sequence was reflective of a point I and others had been making that entire season heading into the matchup – the Warriors make you pay for even a single weak link.
The defining characteristic of last season’s Houston Rockets was the team’s woes on the defensive glass. The Rockets finished 29th in the league in DREB%. In 2017-2018, the team finished fourth in DREB%. The only major difference in the team was the subtraction of starting small forward Trevor Ariza. About as interesting is the fact that after the All-Star break last year, the Rockets finished with the second best defensive rating in the entire league; they were still just 26th in DREB%.
Ariza wasn’t particularly great on the glass. He’s averaged just 4.8 rebounds per game in his career. In 2017-2018, he averaged 4.4 rebounds. I and others have hypothesized that his contributions on the glass aren’t reflected in the box score. He possibly was boxing out bigger players very well, allowing his teammates to secure the rebounds.
What I didn’t realize was just how dreadful Eric Gordon is on the glass. Per cleaningtheglass, Gordon ranks in just the third percentile among all ‘wings’ in the NBA in defensive rebounding. Clint Capela is in the 87th percentile among ‘bigs’, Chris Paul is in the 92nd percentile among ‘points’, and James Harden is in the 89th percentile among ‘combo’ guards. P.J. Tucker is in just the 9th percentile among ‘bigs’. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Rockets got killed on the glass when they were playing two dreadful rebounders at forward.
It begs the question as to whether Mike D’Antoni should start the taller and more athletic Danuel House at small forward instead of Gordon. House is in the 37th percentile among ‘forwards.’ That’s not good by any means, but its better than Gordon. I also noted last season that the team’s best rebounding stretch of the year came in the twelve games House started before being sent back down to the G- League – they were 18th in DREB% during that stretch.
The argument for starting Gordon will be that Westbrook represents a major upgrade over Paul in the rebounding department (he does) and that because of that, the team can now afford a weak link. We’ll see how that plays out. But by position, Paul wasn’t the problem. If the troubles on the glass persist, D’Antoni would be wise to swap out Gordon for House.
I consume a lot of NBA commentary, as you might imagine. You have to if you run an NBA blog, for no other reason than that you have to stay informed about more than just the news but also the popular storylines being discussed by others. And one thing that has struck me as very interesting is that the Harden/Westbrook reunion has not really been given the standing it deserves as a national story.
Most of the preview-ish offseason talk has focused around the two L.A. teams who made major splashes, acquiring some of the very best players in the game. That’s not surprising. Any time one of the major market franchises makes a major move, everything else will obviously be pushed to the background. But even when the Rockets are discussed, its more in a “can this work?” sort of way.