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[Fansided] The Rockets have a counter for everything

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Shaq2Yao, Dec 19, 2017.

  1. Shaq2Yao

    Shaq2Yao Member

    Mar 28, 2006
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    The NBA’s best teams construct their rosters with a specific template in mind. They must put maximum shooting on the floor without compromising defense; big men have to contain guards on the perimeter; all-world playmakers are a necessity and having too many wings is an impossibility. The Houston Rockets operated within that framework this summer when they added Chris Paul, Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker to a roster that already boasted perennial MVP candidate James Harden and a cast of role players perfectly tailored to his game.

    Thus far, Daryl Morey’s gambit is paying off. The Rockets are an NBA-best 24-4 with the league’s best offense and sixth-best defense. They rattled off a 10-4 record in Paul’s absence and have not lost with him in the lineup.

    Harden, meanwhile, looks like the frontrunner for MVP. The roster is deeper and more pliable than ever, as the Rockets can foil almost any stylistic or strategic maneuver with a version of their own. They can also dictate the terms of engagement themselves, forcing opponents to play uncomfortably. Without any discernible weaknesses, the Rockets overwhelm teams with the breadth of their capabilities, and on their best nights, seem to have solved basketball itself.

    Few teams do a better job targeting and exploiting their opponents’ mistakes and weaknesses. Every choice comes at a cost. Want to shut off Harden’s lanes to the basket on the pick-and-roll? He’ll find Clint Capela up top for a lob or zip pinpoint passes to shooters. Switch the action, and he’ll roast your big man off the dribble or step back into nasty triples. When they smell a mismatch, the Rockets attack mercilessly.

    Paul duplicates that threat so that Houston poses it for the full duration of games, and he already looks to be fully assimilated. He and Harden play off of one another wonderfully, seamlessly alternating command of possessions without disrupting one another’s rhythm. The score over 118 points per 100 possessions with one of Paul or Harden on the floor. That number jumps to nearly 122 when they share the court. Add it all up, and Houston runs the most efficient offense in league history. Players like Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson make defenses more wary of devoting extra attention to Harden and Paul because of their immense gravity as shooters.

    Though versatile in their attack, the Rockets are simplistic in their approach. It takes little more than a ball screen to produce a quality shot, and the Rockets waste no time dabbling in other means of production. Paul and Harden both assist on over 46 percent of the team’s field goals while on the floor; no other rotation player checks in higher than 12 percent. More than 57 percent of their shots are assisted, but the Rockets rank last in the NBA in passes per game. Harden leads the NBA in isolation frequency while Paul ranks 11th, and both place in the 95th percentile or better in isolation efficiency.

    Those two will pick at matchups until they find an advantage while the rest of the roster augments that leverage. Capela has become a terrific interior defender and lob finisher. Lineups with Anderson at center spread the opposition so thin as to afford unhindered driving lanes to guards.

    Sliding Tucker to the five unlocks fast, switch-everything units when teams downsize in the playoffs and to close games. In those settings, a boost on one end of the floor no longer has to come at the expense of effectiveness on the other. Paul and Harden’s playmaking turns limited offensive players into threatening ones, and defensive-minded forwards like Tucker, Ariza and Mbah a Moute — shooting a combined 38 percent from deep — become decidedly positive offensive contributors.

    Each player knows his role and operates according to a clearly-defined pecking order; you won’t find Tucker and Mbah a Moute running a pick-and-roll together or Harden checking the other team’s best perimeter scorer. But Morey and Mike D’Antoni have cast the right people for the necessary parts. Only Gordon seems overqualified for his post, and no one is asked to overstretch his ability. Most everyone is a specialist of some sort, and only when those different specialties work in concert does the team operate at its optimal capacity.

    Skeptics will cry for this group to prove it in the playoffs. That’s partly justified, though some narratives of Harden and Paul’s postseason shortcomings have become hyperbole. D’Antoni staggering the minutes of his two superstars and playing a deeper rotation should reduce the wear-and-tear that torpedoed his team down the stretch last year. There’s value in second-tier teams going all-in to maximize a star’s prime and pursue a championship – every so often, one will slip through the cracks. Houston has widened those openings to a point of clear passage.

  2. Os Trigonum

    Os Trigonum It. Deserves. Its. Own. Thread.
    Supporting Member

    May 2, 2014
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    More media conspiracy. Thanks for posting, OP
  3. hakeem94

    hakeem94 Member

    Sep 23, 2016
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    Male sibling, behold thee a sight of the organized mass communication spreaders crawling back!
    seeingredtx likes this.
  4. seeingredtx

    seeingredtx Enlightened

    May 13, 2016
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    Yep, we knew this already and they got paid to write this?
  5. Invisible Fan

    Invisible Fan Insider Newsletter™ 2X Diamond Member
    Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2001
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    The setup before the fall.

    hakeem94 and TracywtFacy like this.
  6. saleem

    saleem Contributing Member

    Jan 1, 2001
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    Our offense is strong, our guys can make adjustments, and our defense is improving, however I worry that teams will try to run versions of the 2002 Sacramento Kings offense to counter use. This will be very hard to defend for us.

    I hope Morey will succeed in getting more defensive help, along with some additional scoring in the post.

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