The biggest hole for the Houston Rockets as a team a year ago was stopping the opposing team in transition. The Rockets ranked among the bottom half in overall defensive efficiency, but were 10th in the NBA in halfcourt defense when Omer Asik was in the game. That hole will hopefully be filled now with the addition of Dwight Howard, as the Rockets are ensured of having at least one defensive stopper guarding the paint at all times.
But the weakness on defense may not come in guarding the paint at all this season; instead, it may be guarding the 3-point line. The Rockets ranked second to last in the league in defending 3-pointers, and allowed opposing teams to shoot over 43 percent from corner 3’s.
Devising a defensive strategy to guard the perimeter better is a main focus for the Rockets at training camp.
“We don’t want to give up any corner 3’s, and we don’t want to give up any layups,” Chandler Parsons said. “Just with the understanding that we have Omer and Dwight behind us, it makes it easier, makes us more confident on the wings to pressure, get out more, be more aggressive just knowing that those two bigs are back there.”
One of the adjustments is not having corner perimeter defenders sag off to help when a guard penetrates the lane, or having him continue to stay on the perimeter if his man beats him off the dribble and gets into the paint.
“With Dwight, we’re going to put a lot of pressure on him,” assistant coach Kelvin Sampson said. “We’re going to run people off the line more. We’re going to give up non-rim 2’s. And if they want to continue to the rim, we’re counting on the best shot blocker in the league.”
Howard, himself, has set the bar the defense.
“In order for us to win, our goal has to be top five in the NBA in defense.” Howard stated. “The biggest thing is all five guys are committed to playing defense. That’s where it starts. My job is to be there for my teammates and clean up all the mistakes and make sure I’m the guy that always talks, telling guys what I see on the floor.”