1. Welcome! Please take a few seconds to create your free account to post threads, make some friends, remove a few ads while surfing and much more. ClutchFans has been bringing fans together to talk Houston Sports since 1996. Join us!

The Rockets struggle with all their best players on the court

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by CDrex, Mar 7, 2019.

  1. CDrex

    CDrex Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2009
    Messages:
    5,925
    Likes Received:
    1,235
    After rolling out a number of different lineups as they have battled injuries, the Rockets seem to be settling into a starting five of Capela, Tucker, Gordon, Harden, and Paul. I don't think it's a stretch to say these are the five guys the team is built around, and they're the five guys who will be closing most tight games in the playoffs, unless extreme small ball removes Capela for whatever reason.

    It's a bit curious, then, that the Rockets generally lose their minutes on the floor with this lineup and most slight permutations of it. (Note that all the [anyone] lineups include minutes both with and without the excluded starter).

    Paul, Harden, Gordon, Tucker, Capela: -4.3 points per 100 possessions
    Paul, Harden, [anyone], Tucker, Capela: -4.1 points per 100 possessions
    Paul, Harden, Gordon, Tucker, [anyone]: -2.9 points per 100 possessions
    Paul, Harden, Gordon, [anyone], Capela: -2.1 points per 100 possessions
    [anyone], Harden, Gordon, Tucker, Capela: -0.6 points per 100 possessions

    The only positive unit that uses four of our best five players is the one excluding Harden - naturally the least-used of the five.
    Paul, [anyone], Gordon, Tucker, Capela: +2.1 points per 100 possessions

    Should this then become a bashing thread for our stars? Clearly Paul and Harden just can't play together, right? The two best lineups are the ones without one of them?

    Well...not really...since the Rockets are winning Paul + Harden minutes.
    Paul + Harden: +0.8 points per 100 possessions

    In fact, they're winning literally every instance of Paul or Harden playing minutes with any other starter, regardless of who else joins them.
    Paul + Gordon: +7.7 points per 100 possessions
    Paul + Tucker: +1.1 points per 100 possessions
    Paul + Capela: +0.9 points per 100 possessions
    Harden+ Gordon: +1.7 points per 100 possessions
    Harden + Tucker: +2.0 points per 100 possessions
    Harden + Capela: +1.8 points per 100 possessions
    Gordon, Tucker, and Capela all have positive net ratings in pairings with one another as well, all in excess of +1.5.

    So the problem isn't that Harden or Paul need to avoid each other, only play with the bench, or become a solo act to succeed. It's that as the lineup moves away from hybrid lineups featuring several starters and approaches the actual starting/closing lineup, the Rockets suddenly struggle.

    Now, part of this stat is just temporal effects. The Rockets were awful the first fourth of the season and good in the second and third quarter. The awful first fourth was their healthiest, so the core guys logged some unsuccessful minutes together before missing chances to play together in wins. But since Dec 9 we are winning at the pace of a 55 win team, and during that time:
    Paul, Harden, Gordon, Tucker, Capela: -0.6 points per 100 possessions
    [anyone], Harden, Gordon, Tucker, Capela: -4.8 points per 100 possessions
    Paul, Harden, [anyone], Tucker, Capela: -2.7 points per 100 possessions
    Paul, Harden, Gordon, [anyone], Capela: -1.6 points per 100 possessions
    Paul, Harden, Gordon, Tucker, [anyone]: +1.5 points per 100 possessions
    Paul, [anyone], Gordon, Tucker, Capela: +4.7 points per 100 possessions

    Another part of this stat is that starters play against starters, of course. It's pretty intuitive that Chris Paul bench lineups have a better net rating than Chris Paul with the starters, because Chris Paul and four bench guys outclasses five bench guys a lot more than our starters outclass their starters. But our best lineup losing their minutes to other starters is pretty unusual among elite teams:

    Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green, Looney: +15.9 points per 100 possessions
    Bledsoe, Brogdon, Middleton, Antetokounmpo, Lopez: +6.1 points per 100 possessions
    Lowry, Green, Leonard, Siakam, Ibaka: +8.1 points per 100 possessions
    Westbrook, Ferguson, George, Grant, Adams: +11.6 points per 100 possessions

    (Note: The Cousins-based starting lineup is actually awful, as some predicted. Denver, meanwhile, has not had a single lineup reach even 200 minutes due to injury.)

    (Note 2: Since all of these guys were with us last year, I was curious how they did together then. The answer was "great" at +10.2, but with Ariza around this lineup only played together for 24 minutes, too small a size to really evaluate.)

    Mike D'Antoni has done an excellent job of maximizing the talent we have via targeted clobbering of other teams' bench units, led by Paul and often Gordon, which quite often cancels out the less desirable results of the starting five. But as the playoffs approach and everyone's rotations tighten, is this a trend we should be concerned about? Is the integrity of this closing lineup a concern? Or do you believe that this five-man unit has it in them to approach those elite numbers put up by the most-used numbers of other elite teams?
     
    #1 CDrex, Mar 7, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2019
  2. SemisolidSnake

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2013
    Messages:
    4,845
    Likes Received:
    5,678
    This doesn't surprise me. Unless you've got these very well defined roles for everyone, you're going to see diminishing returns with all your best people out there with all these different ways of accomplishing something, but only limited time and space to make use of these skills. I think it's probably even worse in this era of hazy position descriptions, and when your two stars are the guards, who actually runs the offense? When you're not oversaturated with talent out there, you actually can get more out of each person by allowing them to maximize their role in the situation they're in. This is true is many situations, not just in basketball.

    You also just have to acknowledge that Paul and Harden are very different basketball entities. Paul is a Swiss Army knife. He's got all these varied tools that let him do a lot of different things. Those tools include midrange twos, open threes, all sorts of passes, court awareness and drawing defenders away in certain directions to open up certain types of shots, and so on. He still needs other people to get the job done, but he's got the tools to help them do it. He's a point guard.

    Harden is a big, sharp machete. Harden is the guy you want when you just need to cut down everything in front of you, because clever navigation and trickery has failed you. He is the absolutely best at that. The. Best.

    Now, the thing is...it's awesome to have both these tools available to you, because some situations demand one and some the other. And in some cases, one tool could do the other's job, but not as well. You can cut down trees with a pocket knife or tighten a screw with a machete, but you'd rather have the right tool for the situation. And we have both tools, amazingly. But it gets confusing and awkward when you try to use them both at once.

    You can extend this to other players as well. It's just a matter of recognizing what tools you need for the current job and using the best ones in concert with each other. And when that doesn't work, just get the machete.
     
    RocketWalta, rhee, Deckard and 13 others like this.
  3. RudyTBag

    RudyTBag Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2006
    Messages:
    24,414
    Likes Received:
    11,899
    I'd much rather see Shumpert, Clark or House in there for Gordon to start games.
     
    Garner likes this.
  4. BigBum

    BigBum Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2018
    Messages:
    3,756
    Likes Received:
    1,282
    very strange to me. Going forward +20.0 points.

    How about this lineup?
    Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green, Iguodala.
     
  5. Newlin

    Newlin Member

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Messages:
    6,168
    Likes Received:
    6,078
    When Harden and Paul are on the floor together aren't the other teams best players also on the floor? Our best has to go up against their best. When our bench players are on the floor the other teams bench players also are on the floor. But, our bench players still have a hall of famer playing point guard. Whether it be Harden or Paul. So, these stats just show the benefit of having an elite play maker on the floor at all times. Most teams have a big drop off when their best playmaker goes to the bench. Does this make sense?
     
  6. steddinotayto

    steddinotayto Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2001
    Messages:
    14,254
    Likes Received:
    9,160
    At a high level, this might explain how/why we give up big leads in the 3rd quarter:

    Most of the 1st quarter: Our starters play the other teams' starter to an even tilt
    End of the 1st and most of the 2nd quarter: either Harden or Paul gets rest and either player (+ supporting cast) annihilates the opposition's reserve units
    Most of the 3rd quarter: The starters are back on on the floor and the lead that was built up by the unit in the 2nd quarter evaporates
    End of the 3rd and most of the 4th: We either climb back from a deficit or build upon the lead that evaporated
    Towards the end of the 4th: Harden either takes over (W) or he's having an off night (L)
     
    cbs1507, hakeem94 and CDrex like this.
  7. CDrex

    CDrex Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2009
    Messages:
    5,925
    Likes Received:
    1,235
    Yes, that lineup is also incredibly effective at +20.3/100 possessions, though they've only managed to use it in 31 games so far due to injuries.
     
    HP3 likes this.
  8. CDrex

    CDrex Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2009
    Messages:
    5,925
    Likes Received:
    1,235
    Indeed. But as noted towards the end of my post, other elite teams have starting lineups that are doing a much better job of outplaying opposing starters.

    I do think you're absolutely right that D'Antoni's excellent staggering of Harden and Paul enables our bench to perform well and that has won us a lot of games.
     
    HP3 likes this.
  9. Riz

    Riz Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Messages:
    2,164
    Likes Received:
    657
    This may be an unpopular opinion...

    There's no surprise the ball stops when Harden is on the floor. The ball and players move more when he's off the court. As elite as Harden is in ISO and we need him to be in crunch situations, this can't simply be the case on nearly all possessions when he's on the floor. We need to go back to the 7-second rule. Then I believe we will be on the positive end of +/- with Harden/Paul/Gordan/Tucker/Capela lineup especially.
     
    hakeem94 likes this.
  10. heypartner

    heypartner Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 1999
    Messages:
    58,654
    Likes Received:
    45,499
    Yeah, I was going to make the same point as @Newlin, which you just threw a wrench in, wrt performance of other teams' starters. And you also point out that one of the main reasons we are elite offense -- this year and last -- is because MDA, immediately upon getting Paul, implemented a staggering rotation of Harden and Paul.

    So, I have question: Is it possible for you to filter your stats by quarter? I'm going to guess that since we often have big 1st Half leads, while Harden closes the 4th well, that we might see that the stats are about the starters openning the 3rd. Can you isolate the 3rd Q? Maybe the stats really tell us that the starters suck in the 3rd Q?

    just a thought. thx for the thread and sharing the info.
     
    sirbaihu, Deckard and HP3 like this.
  11. mike2k132

    mike2k132 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2009
    Messages:
    3,836
    Likes Received:
    3,272
    Nice work but to me its simp
    True our offense might work dif with Paul or harden but I think that's a strength not a weakness. Like what other poster said was spot on. Sometimes u need a iso heavy quarter..hell that's how gsw best us. They played alot of iso with kd. Some games u can more the ball n it works. Something like last year Houston shuts u down with all the switching then you have to have a guy like kd who can say f it I'm just gonna score 6 shots in a row n not even pass. That's the beautiful thing we have both. U need both
     
    HP3 likes this.
  12. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    9,473
    Likes Received:
    11,365
    This is a really great thread man.

    I think one of the things that could help Paul and Harden be better together(at least offensively) is that both need to be better at catch and shoot 3s. Paul needs to take the threes when he has them and do does James. Though Paul’s release is a little slow which is a problem.

    Notice how Gordon is positive for both Paul and Harden, it’s cause he can catch and shoot and handle the ball sometimes.
     
  13. Riz

    Riz Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Messages:
    2,164
    Likes Received:
    657
    And I agree, as I mentioned sometimes we need to harden or even pauls ISO, but with Harden on the floor it happens all the time even when we don't need it. This works both ways. I'm saying that in cases we don't need ISO, we need a 7-second rule that we had going for us last year. Due to injuries we have become too dependent on Harden's ISO in every possession. It's not any body's fault, it was needed. But, now with a healthy roster, we need movement.
     
    saleem likes this.
  14. mike2k132

    mike2k132 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2009
    Messages:
    3,836
    Likes Received:
    3,272
    Understood but my counter point is that we have had this offense now for 2 years. And my point is we are almost unbeatable like 70 n 10 with cp3 harden n capella playing. Ima guy that never looks at what you doing wrong until what you doing right ain't good enough. You was a injury away from winning a championship. So my theory is do it again don't get hurt....n the history shows you was a all time great rockets team with a almost championship if not for injury. So how do we know them iso that we don't need matters if fully healthy. Even gsw can play better. That's not the point...its if thats good enough. Cause if isoing every time up the count proves to win u a championship I'll take it twice on Sunday
     
  15. Roc Paint

    Roc Paint Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2001
    Messages:
    16,493
    Likes Received:
    7,105
    Just not against Golden State
     
  16. Mathloom

    Mathloom Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2008
    Messages:
    14,417
    Likes Received:
    9,273
    Will be interesting to see how Shumpert factors into this. If all iterations of Paul/Harden are winning, I bet a mediocre-shooting Shumpert would be the best version of that lineup.

    Which would move Gordon to the bench and push Rivers/Green largely out of the rotation. All works well for us. It's difficult to start a 6'1 and 6'4 guy in the backcourt these days, I'm not surprised that unit is not blowing teams out of the water. It's small but still doesn't blow anyone away with speed.

    A more well rested Tucker might boost us a bit too if Faried ever comes back.
     
  17. RockingRox

    RockingRox Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2007
    Messages:
    1,655
    Likes Received:
    259
    The Rockets were not a very good team for the most part of the season and they just geared up the last 10 games or so.

    So Q1: How many games had been included in OP's study?
    Q2: can you just use the last 10-games and compare again? DMA said that in the last 10 games, the Rockets defense is top 10, the plus/minus gotta be much better threre.
     
    saleem and icewill36 like this.
  18. macan

    macan Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2017
    Messages:
    6,668
    Likes Received:
    10,071
    i think EG plays best when he's the 6th man
     
    rocks123 and bacliff like this.
  19. Remlap

    Remlap Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2010
    Messages:
    4,605
    Likes Received:
    8,307
    WAIT, people on here have been calling for MDA's head.
    You mean, that's a misnomer? I shouldn't buy the spray paint?
     
  20. jordnnnn

    jordnnnn Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Messages:
    7,864
    Likes Received:
    5,345
    Fun fact the Rockets employ the top 3 players in terms of percentage of their possessions that are isolation plays

    Harden - 49.6% @ 1.11 points per possession
    Paul - 30.3% @ 0.96 points per possession
    Rivers - 25.7% @ 1.07 points per possession
     
    vlaurelio and HP3 like this.

Share This Page

  • About ClutchFans

    Since 1996, ClutchFans has been loud and proud covering the Houston Rockets, helping set an industry standard for team fan sites. The forums have been a home for Houston sports fans as well as basketball fanatics around the globe.

  • Support ClutchFans!

    If you find that ClutchFans is a valuable resource for you, please consider becoming a Supporting Member. Supporting Members can upload photos and attachments directly to their posts, customize their user title and more. Gold Supporters see zero ads!


    Upgrade Now