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    09/07/2011 10:47 PM
  • Last Update:
    11/21/2020 9:52 PM

2013/14 NBA Team Preview: Houston Rockets

Season Review 2012/13:

Advanced Stats
Numbers
Rank
Pace
96.1
1
Offense
109.7
6
Defense
106.1
16
Rebound
50.9
9

4 Factors
Offense
Numbers
Rank
Defense
Numbers
Rank
eFG%
52.5
5
eFG%
50.2
19
TO%
14.9
30
TO%
13.5
19
Reb%
26.4
17
Reb%
24.8
2
FT%
23.2
4
FT%
19.6
9

Monthly Performance
Record
OffRtg
DefRtg
November
 7-8
107.2
107.0
December
 10-6
112.0
108.4
January
 8-9
109.8
108.0
February
 6-5
118.7
113.3
March
 9-5
111.7
104.2
April
 5-4
110.4
106.3


Possibly, not even GM Daryl Morey was expecting that a player like James Harden would be available in the market at the start of the past season. Naturally, Morey didn’t even hesitate in acquiring Harden to Oklahoma City in exchange for some young talent plus Kevin Martin. Suddenly, the Rockets who weren’t playoff contenders became much more competitive with Harden having a breakthrough season that confirmed him as a real top player in the league.

In an organization that is characterized by a management that uses advanced metrics, Head Coach Kevin McHale had a similar mindset on coaching, as the Rockets would just focus on offense by using two areas of the court: the rim and behind the line that were considered the two most efficient/valuable zones.

%Shot Location (via hoopdata.com)
Distance
Rim
3-9feet
10-15feet
16-23feet
3pts
%vol
36.6%
9.9%
3.5%
11.9%
34.9%
Rank
3
20
30
30
2

The Rockets also played at a fast tempo and they were even the fastest paced team in the league last season by a considerable margin.

Possibly due to a lack of time to implement an offensive scheme, the Rockets’ offensive sets were simply based on pick and roll sets to use Harden well on the court, but that forced Jeremy Lin to play more off the ball, something that made him struggle early on. Against teams that had great individual defenders on the perimeter to slow down Harden, the Rockets struggled on offense. In fact, Houston went 2-12 on regular season games against San Antonio (Leonard), Memphis (Allen) and Denver (Iguodala)!

Eventually, the Rockets grabbed the last playoffs spot on the Western Conference by losing against the Lakers on the last game of the regular season. The Rockets faced the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs, in a terrible matchup for them, as nobody knows Harden better than his former team. Russell Westbrook’s injury gave some hope to the Rockets and even though Houston won two consecutive games after being down by 0-3 in the series, but they eventually lost the Game 6 of the series at home, ending their season in the process.


Offseason Report:

Dwight Howard was the most desired player in the offseason with several teams trying to convence him to sign with them. However, it was the Rockets who finally convinced Howard that they would give him the biggest chance of winning the title.

With a very young core of promising players, GM Darly Morey didn’t need to make a lot of moves. Carlos Delfino left the team, something that forced Morey to sign Reggie Williams, Ronnie Brewer and Omri Casspi, while he signed veteran Marcus Camby to improve the frontcourt.


Season Preview:

With Dwight Howard on the team and looking at what I’ve been watching on the preseason, Howard is 100% healthy and ready to dominate like in the old days in Orlando, so the whole Rockets’ gameplan will come through him.

The immediate question is how he will be compatible with Omer Asik. Judging at how we saw last season with Howard and Pau Gasol in LA, the conclusion is obvious: these two players aren’t compatible, especially on offense! To maximize the floor spacing, the PF needs to a stretch-four with good shooting range in order to take advantage of the space that will be given to him due to extra attention Howard will get. Naturally, this will never help with Asik in the same way that Stan Van Gundy was never able to conciliate Howard with Gortat in Orlando. So, Gortat was destined to be Howard’s backup in Orlando and the same will happen in Houston, with Asik needing to leave the starting lineup. However, Asik doesn’t deserve to be benched, besides the fact that is contract is too big for a mere backup player. Therefore, the most obvious solution would be to trade Asik for a player with the profile that I mentioned before, something that will happen sooner or later.

Kevin McHale’s offensive scheme from last season will be a perfect fit to Howard, as he was used to play alongside perimeter shooters in Orlando. Howard is a great finisher on pick and rolls, so we can expect the Rockets to have once again a high volume of pick and roll plays, but this time with the roll man having a bigger role than he had last season.

James Harden had a breakthrough season last year on his first NBA season as a starter: 44% FG, 37% 3pts, 85% FT for 25.9 points per game, while dishing 5.8 assists per game! He is an elite player, but he had to do so many things last season that it was hard for him to keep himself fresh down the stretch, especially when he was facing top defensive teams that were focused on limiting him offensively. Harden is one of the best players in the league on handling the ball on pick and roll sets and Howard’s presence will only help him in all possible scenarios. Therefore, we can expect another great season for Harden.

Jeremy Lin struggled a bit last season, especially early on the season with a terrible month of November, where he shot 37% FG. However, he kept improving as the season went on until an injury physically limited him, something that allowed Patrick Beverley to even pass him on the depth chart. Lin’s initial issues were completely normal, as after all we are in front of a player with little experience on the NBA who went from being a primary ball handler as a typical PG into a player that had to play more off the ball due to James Harden joining the team. This was quite visible in a game against San Antonio, where Harden didn’t play. As Harden was out, Lin became the primary option on offense and scored a season high 38 points, while shooting 11-21 FG, 4-5 3pts and 12-12 FT! For this season, Lin will be more ready to play off the ball, so I expect him to have a bounce back season. Patrick Beverley will be his backup and he showed last season that he can be a very useful player with an impressive aggressiveness in both ends of the floor.

The Rockets will need three point shooters and Chandler Parsons showed last season that he is ready for this task. After a surprising rookie season, Morey had no problems in abdicate from Chase Budinger to give more playing time to Parsons, who showed that he can be a really solid player by improving pretty much on every individual stat and doing it on an efficient way: 48.6% FG, 39% 3pts and 73% FT! Parsons will have plenty of open looks this season, so there are no reasons to think that he won’t be able to keep being a super efficient player.

Until Asik gets traded, Coach McHale will need to maximize the players that he currently has on his roster. Greg Smith is an old school PF that doesn’t have a good shooting range, so he will struggle on playing alongside Howard. Donatas Motiejunas has this shooting requisite, but he is still very raw and inexperienced in other key areas of the game, so he isn’t ready to be a key part on a contending team. On the preseason, Omri Casspi has been a huge revelation and he has been having minutes at the PF position with some success. His ability to know down long range shots is a plus, even though he is struggling on defense against typical Power Forwards.

With Howard back at his best, the Rockets will automatically become one of the best teams in the league, just like Orlando was when Howard was still there. The Rockets’ young perimeter players are more talented than the group that Howard had around him in Orlando. James Harden will continue consolidating into a top player in the league and the pick and rolls between the two team’s stars promise to be one of the most dangerous weapons in the league. If GM Morey manages to find the right partner for Howard and offer McHale a PF with the ability to stretch the floor, then the Rockets will be one of the strongest contenders from the Western Conference to reach the NBA Finals.

My name is André Gomes, I’m from Portugal and I am a Professional Handicapper. My sole purpose is to constantly beat the sportsbooks by taking advantage of the evaluation errors they make. It is most... Read more

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