The Houston Rockets are ranked as the number one offense in the NBA as of right now. They’re averaging 105.8 points a game. But they’re also at the bottom of the league defensively, sitting at 29th and giving up an average of 103.5 points a game.
If you look at them offensively they don’t have many flaws. If you want to get picky you could say they need a big man who can score in the post. And you can say they need another star to pair with James Harden. Those things are true, but the biggest thing holding the Rockets back from being one of the top teams in the league is their defense.
They are being compared to the Phoenix Suns and the Golden State Warriors of the late 2000’s, which is a fair comparison. Those two teams were great offensively and completely terrible defensively. But how do the Rockets get better defensively on the fly?
Outside of Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons the Rockets are terrible defensively. Marcus Morris has shown flashes of good defense but struggles with guys who are just flat out bigger and stronger than him. Greg Smith has also shown flashes, but along with Morris they are both still very young and need more time to develop defensively.
Let me make this clear. Jeremy Lin is a bad defender. I understand that he averages 1.8 steals a game, which is one of the best in the league, but outside of that he’s awful. He gets beat off the dribble, can’t stay in front of his man and can’t fight through picks. Most of his steals come after he gets beat and throws his hand out to block a pass.
James Harden is not much better than Lin. He struggles with the same things. He also averages 1.8 steals a game but gets killed by most opponents he goes against, just like Lin.
To disguise the backcourt problems defensively the Rockets need to rely on the frontcourt and the bench to get stops. Lin and Harden’s struggles defensively are one reason why the Rockets cut Daequan Cook and Signed James Anderson. Anderson is a much better defender than any of those guys. Toney Douglas is not bad defensively, but he is also more focused on his offensive game.
The Rockets need better defensive help off the bench and in the starting lineup. An upgrade at power forward is most likely coming, and hopefully he brings defense with him, whoever he is. Asik and Parsons can’t do it all by themselves. Without defensive help this team could fizzle out quickly, even if they do make the playoffs.