Houston Rockets: Can Analytics Win Them Title?


Houston Rockets: Can Analytics Win Them Title?

Are the Houston Rockets currently assembled to win an NBA championship? With the NBA trade deadline less than a week away, that’s the question, which Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, who is fully armed with analytics (the use of statistical models, equations and quantitative formulas to progress team success on and off the court) has to answer.

One of the biggest faultfinders with analytics is The Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley. “First of all, I’ve always believed analytics was crap,” said Barkley.

Barkley is a proponent of NBA General Managers having a basketball background. “Not a bunch of guys who have never played the game,” Barkley continues to say. “They’re (teams that use analytics) always competitive to a certain degree, and they don’t win. It’s the same thing in the NBA.”

The Houston Rockets have been competitive during the first half of the 2015 season, holding on to a top four seeding in the Western Conference standings, which brings us back the question—Do the Houston Rockets have a championship roster as it is currently constructed?  Charles Barkley answered that question with this statement, “You know I never mention the Rockets as legitimate contenders ‘cause they’re not.”

“You know I never mention the Rockets as legitimate contenders ‘cause they’re not.” – Barkley

The Rockets have one pivotal need, assuming that Dwight Howard will return in good health. The Rockets are in need of an experienced point guard and/or another player that can handle the ball.

The acquisition of a point guard will take the ball-handling burden off of James Harden, and allow for a more fluid offensive.

The Rockets are still trying to fill the void left by Chandler Parsons’ and Jeremy Lin’s departure. Both Parsons and Lin added offensive versatility. The have the ability to hit the open shot or create their own shot off the dribble, one aspect lacking from the current team, with Harden being the only exception.

The Houston Rockets play at a disadvantage from the point guard position nightly. The trio of Patrick Beverly, Jason Terry, and Isaiah Canaan, aren’t savvy enough to challenge the top guards of the Western Conference, i.e. Stephen Curry (Golden State), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder), Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies), Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers), Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers), Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs), and Rajon Rondo (Dallas Mavericks).

Patrick Beverly is the starting point guard, but he’s better suited as a backup. He’s a gritty, hard-nosed competitor that doesn’t mind doing the dirty work. Beverly will battle any guard tooth and nail on the defensive end, but he just lacks the offensive skill set to present a threat to opposing guards.

As the Rockets continue to gel, they have the potential to be a very good defensive team to closeout games with Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, Josh Smith, Dwight Howard, and James Harden. This core of players is long with enough length to guard multiple positions. They are also versatile enough to disrupt an opposing offense.

The NBA rumor mill has the Rockets interested in point guards Goran Dragic, of the Phoenix Suns, and Reggie Jackson, of the Oklahoma City Thunder. If Houston acquires either guard; it would be an upgrade to the position.

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Dragic is one of four point guards on the Suns roster, however he can walk away as free agent at the end of this season. Goran, All-NBA and Most Improved Player last season, has garnered league-wide interest, and has already played under Rockets Head Coach, Kevin McHale.

As for Jackson, he’s looking for an opportunity to validate himself as a starting point guard as well as being compensated with the substantial raise that will come with being a starting guard. The Thunder and Jackson appear to be at a contract impasse. Is this déjà vu all over again? The stars maybe aligning once again to allow the Rockets to receive another Thunder castoff destined for stardom.

I don’t know if Daryl Morey will use analytics to dictate the Rockets style of play (Rockets take the most 3-point shots in the league) or to dictate the acquisition of additional personnel (Josh Smith free agent signing/Corey Brewer via trade). Either way, if James Harden continues to play at an MVP level and if Dwight Howard gets healthy, winning the NBA title is definitely possible.

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