The Houston Rockets have put up some disheartening games early in the season. The most recent loss to the Clippers saw the Rockets depart from a successful half-court attack for a free wheeling three-point barrage. The result? A 13-point loss. There’s a great deal of speculation that the problem lies in isolation basketball, turnovers, and the failure of the twin towers offense. The answer may be simpler. The answer may also lie in the numbers.
Put simply, Houston has an identity problem. The Rockets spent big money this off-season bringing in Dwight Howard from Los Angeles. They made their money last season as an up-tempo run and gun team that relied on James Harden. The problem this season, however, is the intersection of a past identity and a new mentality. A few stats define this Rockets team early. None of these stats are remotely positive.
Disclaimer: These numbers are current as of 11/11/13 before the game against the Toronto Raptors.
The Rockets average 18.86 turnovers per game. The Rockets best rim defender is Chandler Parsons. Parsons allows only a 34.8% FG percentage at the rim. Omer Asik allows 35.6%. Opponents shoot the three-point shot at a 36% clip against them while only connecting on 32% of their shots from deep. Despite shooting poorly from deep 25% of their shots have been from three-point range (176 shots out of 704 total). The biggest impact that the Dwight Howard signing has had on the Rockets is their 69% free throw percentage. The Rockets cough the ball up on steals and blocks 15 times per game. That’s 36 overall giveaways in a game.
All hope is not lost, however. There’s more hope in what I know you readers love. Numbers! The Rockets draw 29.4 fouls per game. Hack-A-Dwight contributes to those numbers in a major way. Houston blocks or steals 13 possessions a game. Perhaps even more encouraging, they force 29 turnovers per game. That’s 42 takeaways a game.
The problems the Rockets have, however, are very correctable. It boils down to one simple word. Aggression. Jeremy Lin touches the ball roughly 60 times a game. He drives roughly 10. 17% of his possessions result in drives. James Harden is even less encouraging. Harden touches the ball 64 times per game and 7 times per game. 11% of his touches result in drives. In the half court Dwight Howard is good for .7 points per touch. The stat favors big men but Howard is in the top 10 in the league with this stat.
These numbers all scream one real conclusion that the Rockets need to acknowledge: This is a team that is better suited to leverage Dwight Howard than it is to keep running. The Clippers game got out of control the moment the pace picked up. Houston abandoned the half court offense that built them a lead to fire up threes and run. While it jives more with the style Houston played last season, it’s not sustainable if the team wants to build a contender. Playoff games are won in the half-court. Dwight Howard is one of the best at converting in the half-court. The three point shooting slump will eventually break but the critical issue for the Rockets won’t be the law of averages. It will be the ability to integrate their three-point shooting to a Dwight-centric game.
Time heals all wounds. The Rockets are a young team feeling out chemistry right now. Tempers have flared between the Rockets backcourt and there are rumblings of potential issues between Dwight and the backcourt. A heavier integration of the pick and roll game and a more aggressive Houston Rockets team should help solve those issues. Ultimately this season’s results hinge on the ability of the Rockets to mature. If this squad can establish Dwight Howard and operate an offense based around what he does then there will be reason to get excited.