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Being a Top 10 Defensive Teams and Playoff Chances

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Carl Herrera, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. Carl Herrera

    Carl Herrera Contributing Member

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    The issue of what a Rockets team can do next year with good defenders, but lacking in offensive starpower has been discussed. So, I decided to take a look at how often good defensive teams have managed to miss the playoffs.

    My initial question is this: If the Rockets can maintain their defensive ability, what would it take such a defensive team with such efficiency to miss the playoffs. For reference the Rockets,ranked 4th overall defensively last season. I believe they were #1 or #2 during the 2nd half of the season (i.e. once McGrady was done, and healthier Batiter and Artest played more minutes).

    Of course, it's an untested assumption that the Rockets team will be good defensively. They were dramatically worse in that respect when Yao was out of the game (there was a 5 point per 100 possession swing, taking them from elite to average. So, can they stay nearly as good with him out of there most of the season? There seem to be reason to believe that the team can do better without Yao than they did last regular season. Specifically, in seasons before last, there has not been such a dramatic difference. Also, one would imagine that, if Battier and Ariza stayed healthy (healthier than Artest and Battier were last year), and Hayes gets more minutes (as, I remember, he did vs. Lakers), the Rockets would have a better defensive lineup than they had during many of the Yao-less minutes last season (probably a good chunk was garbage time, or 2nd quarter when starters typically rest).

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2009.html


    Basketball-reference.com has a handy feature, allowing you to rank teams by their ORating (points scored per 100 possession) and DRating (points against per 100 possessions) each season. I decided to look at how many of the teams that were top-10 defensively each of the last 10 seasons managed to miss the playoffs:

    The following is a list that goes:

    [season]: [number of top 10 defensive teams missing playoffs] ([defensive rank of such teams]).

    For example, in the 99-00 season, 1 top 10 defensive team missed the playoffs, and that team ranked 9th defensively.



    99-00: 1 (9)
    00-01: 1 (9)
    01-02: 1 (3)
    02-03: 1 (6)
    03-04: 2 (7, 10)
    04-05: 0
    05-06 : 2 (6, 10)
    06-07: 2 (9, 10)
    07-08: 0
    08-09: 1 (7)

    So, overall 11 out of the 100 team that ranked among the top 10 defensively missed the playoffs. Among the teams that ranked among top 5 defensively over the last 10 years, only 1 team (the 01/02 Miami Heat) misse the playoffs (after a 36-win season).

    That Miami Heat team was rather bad offensively (0.3 points per 100 possession from the bottom of the league). It lost Tim Hardaway and Anthony Mason from prior year's roster, and was led offensively by Eddie Jones (had a pretty decent offensiv eyar), Zo Mourning (returning after missing most of prior season) and averaged 15 ppg, and after them it was 10 ppg by Rod Strickland (also led the team in assists while in his md 30s) and Jim Jackson.

    The two teams that managed to missed the playoffs while ranked #6 defensively were the 05/06 Rockets (we know the story of that team-- with Yao and Tracy out, the lead offensive talent were probably Rafer and Juwan Howard), and the 02/03 Nuggets (leading scorer? You guessed it: Juwan Howard). As depleted as that Rockets team was, it managed to win 30+ games. The sub-20 win Nuggets were the only real bottom feeder among decent defensive teams that I noticed-- and they had to be legendarily bad on offense to achieve that feat. Their points per 100 possession scored was 4 points lower than the next worst team in the league (and did I mention Juwan Howard was their #1 offensive option all season?).

    Based on the foregoing, I am thinking:

    1. If the Rockets can stay defensively as efficient as they were last season (i.e. mong the top 4 or 5), there is virtually no chance they'll be a true bottom-dweller (i.e. 20 win teams). It will likely take being not only the worst in the league offensively, but lengendarily bad like the 02/03 Nuggets to make that happen. It's safe to say that a review of the respective rosters indicate the Rockets can't be that bad.

    2. If the Rockets can stay as good defensively as they were, it will take being real bottom dweller offensively (i.e. bottom 4 or 5 in the league.. probably only slightly above the worst team in the league) in order to even be a 30 or 35 win team, or one that miss the playoffs but come pretty close.
    This is probably an obvious point, since it makes sense that, to be average or below despite being tops on defense, you need to be bad on offense to a similar degree.


    Do you think the current roster, being coached by Adelman can manage to stay out of the cellar on the offensive end? I am thinking the roster compares pretty well against, say, the 01/02 Heat (which was devoid of any young talent and any kind of star-level player other than Eddie Jones and Zo) and the 99/00 Orlando Magic (they won 41 games, the year before TMac's arrival... their leading scorers were Darrell Armstrong, John Amaechi and . Chucky Atkins). But I may be wrong.

    3. One thing that can put a monkey wrench into the whole thing is further injuries. This team really can't afford any more than it has already.


    Side note: For the sake of fun, I did the same thing with top 10 offensive teams each season:

    99-00: 2 (7, 10)
    00-01 2 (5, 9)
    01-02: 2 (8, 10)
    02-03: 1 (3)
    03-04: 2 (3, 10)
    04-05: 2 (6, 7)
    05-06 : 2 (3, 5)
    06-07: 1 (9)
    07-08: 1 (4),
    08-09: 2 (2, 9)

    It seems that there are more teams managing to miss the playoffs despite being good offensively than teams managing to do so despite bing good defensively. 17 out of 100 top 10 offensive teams missed the playoffs over the last 10 years, including 7 out of 50 top 5 offensive teams during the last 10 yeasrs.
     
  2. leebigez

    leebigez Contributing Member

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    Good research , but you don't need basketball reference to tell you how the rockets play defensively without yao. The reason why teams score more especially in the paint is because Adelman wouldn't play deke behind yao. Instead he played a scola/landry combo in which they are probably the worse defenders on the rockets. So now we fast forward to this year and teams will attack the basket early and often and they will score at the bucket, putting pressurre on a rockets team that will have trouble scoring anyway.
     
  3. larsv8

    larsv8 Contributing Member

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    Interesting premise, but more simply I think it comes down to how well the Suns will play and how much progression OK and LAC make.
     
  4. LBJ-Tmac

    LBJ-Tmac Member

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    I always believed that the Rockets would still make the playoffs as one of the lower seeds this season however our defensive ability has definetly taken a hit without Yao.

    I'm not a real big fan of David Anderson as I have seen him play Euro-Ball. He may do this year without Yao but he isn't really a defensive presence inside. His not like Mutombo that goes for blocks and can't really strip players like Hayes.

    I see him being an adequate back up for Yao next season or late this season if Yao comes back.

    If only Hayes was 7 foot :D
     
  5. iconoclastic

    iconoclastic Member

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    We might be as good offensively without Yao (remember our efficiency when the other teams fronted Yao?), but defensively without a true shot blocker our defense is going to go way down. There's only so much good fundamental positional defense can do against the athletic freaks of the NBA who can get to the rim and finish at will when nobody on defense can block their shots.
     
  6. motionsiknes

    motionsiknes Member

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    If he was, he be dominant and be commanding $7 mil a year :)
     
  7. Carl Herrera

    Carl Herrera Contributing Member

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    The stats confirm that the Rockets did not perform well when playing the Scola/Landry Combo. They were, in fact much better off offensively AND defensively when they played the Scola/Hayes combo. The somewhat surpising thing is Scola and Landry didn't really mesh all that well offensively judging by the numbers. (The Yao/Landry Combo did work out pretty well overall, so this is not really to bash Landry).

    So the solution may well be to do as they did vs. the Lakers: play Hayes more. This way, they at least have D covered (there is still a size and shot blocking issue, but overall Hayes does well defensively) and you just gotta take your chances that Chuck gets enough offensive rebounds and stuff to not hurt you too badly.
     
  8. iconoclastic

    iconoclastic Member

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    I think OP underestimated the impact of a dominant shot-blocker.

    OP mentioned in the seasons past the Yao effect wasn't as large. Well Yao was widely commended for playing the defense of his career last season by everyone from Daryl Morey to Yao himself, and agreed to by most of this board. Also, to assume that the most injury cursed team in the NBA won't suffer injuries is a tad optimistic.

    I predict we'll be average on defense next season and average on offense and win about 40 games.
     
  9. Canadiandude

    Canadiandude Member

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    Our style of play on the offensive end will effect our defensive ranking dramatically. Our switch to running and gunning means less legs to defend and more opportunities for opponents to score.
     
  10. Canadiandude

    Canadiandude Member

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    sorry about the doublepost :eek:
     
  11. meh

    meh Contributing Member

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    I sincerely doubt we'd be more than just borderline top 10 defensive team. Without Yao for long stretches, teams will eventually figure out how to attack inside, which they have trouble adjusting on the fly when Yao simply leaves for a few games.

    Even if we do end up playing great defense though, our offense looks to be absolutely atrocious. I have a feeling we could easily be bottom 5 in that regards. I mean, our offensive talent right now looks to easily be bottom 5.

    To me, the only way the Rockets make the playoffs, short of some midseason blockbuster trade, is for Aaron Brooks to turn into Terrell Brandon type player.
     
  12. Spacemoth

    Spacemoth Contributing Member

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    I think Battier is the only irreplaceable part in our defensive juggernaut of a team. As you said, our defense lagged early in the season primarily because Battier was injured and then playing hobbled when he did return. As long as he is on this team though, it's a good bet that everyone else will hustle and make the necessary plays to keep our team in the top 10 defensively.

    Ariza should be another defensive stalwart, but honestly I think our other wing options (whoever of White, Budinger, Taylor remains, Barry is still here, I'm not counting on T-Mac but he/whoever we trade for him will be in the mix too at some point) will be able to do a stand up job of maintaining the team defense, rotating in time, keeping proper spacing, etc, such that an injury to Ariza won't affect us too much.

    Scola, Landry, and Brooks are poor defenders individually but understand our defensive scheme well enough. Injuries to them will only hurt us offensively. Hayes Lowry and Dorsey are above average defenders but certainly injuries to any one of them shouldn't be crippling by any means.

    I love this team because Morey and Adelman had to go forward building it under the T-Mac/Yao Man-of-Glass mindset: we've been collecting assets from the beginning, not to package up to upgrade an important roster spot, but with the actual expectation that our team will be going 11-12 deep thanks to injuries in a particular year. Battier is the only essential, which is why I am so baffled by trade suggestions on his part.

    True, if our goal is to get the #1 pick in the lottery then trading Battier should be our first task at hand. Otherwise, leave the man alone. He had an off-year last year because he was injured for most of it and rehabbing most of the offseason prior. If you want to trade him wait till the summer of 2010 when his value will have peaked after an amazing 2009-2010 campaign.
     
  13. dakeem1

    dakeem1 Member

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    I don't believe in curses. The reason for our extremely bad injury luck is due to two reasons:
    - YAO
    - TMAC

    Of course, there have been other injuries a la Battier, Deke, Sura, however our Rockets have been seen as an injury cursed team simply because it's two bestp layers are always injured.

    Now that we are under the premise that they are injured, we can afford to be optimistic and assume that injuries should not mar us too much.

    I'm just speaking logically here guys. So don't say 'I told you so' if we do get more injuries. Shyt Happens, DUH! However, logically we shouldn't see many injuries now that our most injury prone players are out.
     
  14. jakedasnake

    jakedasnake Member

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    Yes, with Hayes' ability to take charges I consider him an inside presence even though he doesn't block shots. A charge is as good as or better than a block so Hayes getting 15-20 minutes will be key. Also, he is pick and roll defense is top notch which is a plus over Yao.

    If we can find someone else that will provide a defensive presence in the paint like Dorsey and a little more on offense than Hayes. Either way, I still think Hayes is about as valuable of a team player as their is in this league. Hopefully we have enough offensive firepower to allow Hayes/Dorsey to play enough minutes.
     
  15. leebigez

    leebigez Contributing Member

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    Yeah CH, Hayes can help a lot on defense in pick and roll. That's what the rockets defend a lot better without yao, but durvasa pulled up a stat about teams finishing close to the rim and it was amazing. We ha discussions about the layup drill. The rox are a better perimeter defensive team minus yao, but once teams get the ball inside, its over. Teams will convert a high % of shots inside.
     
  16. durvasa

    durvasa Contributing Member
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    Assuming we stay relatively injury-free, I think the Rockets are going to have a tough time maintaining their defensive efficiency (that is, top 5) in the upcoming season. Yao's presence on the defensive end of underrated. In past seasons where we maintained pretty well without him for large chunks of the season, we had Mutombo step up.

    I expect defensive rebounding to take a hit, and interior FG% allowed to worsen. Still a good bet we'll be top 10, but top 5 will be tough. Especially because I'd expect Adelman will favor more up-tempo, offense-oriented lineups without McGrady/Yao.

    With good health, I think we end up ranking somewhere in the 15-20 range on offense, and we rank somewhere in the 5-10 range on defense. So, best case we're 5th in defense and 15th in offense -- probably amounts to 45-48 wins. Worst case we're 10th in defense and 20th on offense -- probably closer to 33-36 wins. Just eyeballing those figures, by the way.
     
  17. illwil29

    illwil29 Member

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    The Bobcats really wanted Landry last summer. Why don't we package Landry and another player maybe Dorsey or Barry for Tyson Chandler. I think that move was a move that made no sense for the Bobcats.Offensively both of those centers to me are the same except Okafor does not get hurt as often.I love Carl he is the only post player we have that will dunk on someone might be the only player that has the vertical to do that on the Rockets.But hey we need a center that can shot block that's why I would not mind it.
     
  18. durvasa

    durvasa Contributing Member
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    Chandler is making 12 million. You'd have to throw in a lot more than Dorsey/Barry to get the salaries to match. And doing so would make it more difficult for us to trade away smaller pieces to cut salary and get under the luxury tax.
     
  19. pmac

    pmac Contributing Member

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    I think whether or not the rockets remain a top 10 defensive team hinges on Andersen's play. If he is a very poor defender then we will suffer, assuming he starts and plays big minutes.

    I get the feeling Adleman won't play Hayes enough to keep our defense great.

    very nice thread, should be some good discussion.
     
  20. DieHard Rocket

    DieHard Rocket Contributing Member

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    Seeing as how we have a head coach with a system that has flourished on the offensive end throughout his career, I don't think we'll be a terrible offensive team. Though they aren't "superstars", we've still got a couple of guys that we can throw the ball to and that can create for themselves (Scola, Brooks), and the rest of our rotation aren't exactly scrubs offensively either (Battier, Ariza, Anderson, Landry, Lowry). Hayes is the only guy that is. I'd have to believe with Adelman's system that we'd be far superior to that Heat team and the rest of those bottom-dwellars...at that point in their careers Jones and 'Zo weren't exactly in their prime, and neither of them were great offensive players.

    Defensively I think we'll be solid, but maybe not quite as good as we have been. Our frontcourt isn't exactly going to give people second-thoughts about attacking the basket.
     
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