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NBA Player Stats – What We Learned About Houston Rockets

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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What The Numbers Tell Us About The Houston Rockets and League Leaders

What started out as a project to see what players topped the advanced NBA player stats ending up providing some very valuable insight into why Houston Rockets James Harden was so dominate last season and why certain teams were offensive power houses.  I’ll address the Harden factor in a separate post, but wanted to wrap up the 9-part series here to showcase some top lines of what I learned about the power of analytics and why so many teams are using them in their recruitment to fill specific roster spots.

Speed and Distance

While it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Damian Lillard or Goran Dragic in the top 5 of this category what wasn’t expected was finding Andrew Wiggins and Houston Rockets Trevor Ariza in the top 5 of players. Breaking it down it makes sense though since Ariza is tasked with defending the opponent’s best player often and Wiggins had to do a lot for his Timberwolves.  Looking ahead the fact James Harden ranked 13th and new Rocket Ty Lawson ranked 23rd, the fact Houston likes to push the pace and has 3 players in the top 25 bodes well for them continuing this practice and refining it in the 2015-16 season.

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Touches and Possessions

Obviously the leaders of this category are point guards because they quarterback the plays, but breaking into the top of the board is Houston Rockets James Harden.

I guess it’s not much of a surprise given he needed to handle the ball with all the Rockets injuries, yet let’s not forget we still had Patrick Beverley and Jason Terry to man the point guard position. Harden’s performance in this category points directly to how much he improves the performance of those around him.

Factor in Ty Lawson finished directly behind the bearded shooting guard and it has me dreaming of visions of grandeur in Clutch City this season. Imagine you are the opposition and have to game plan on how to stop Harden and once you do then you’ve opened a path for Lawson to do exactly the same thing Harden does in penetrating the paint and setting up the outside shooters!

Passing

Again not surprising to find Chris Paul or John Wall at the head of the pack, but the delight for Clutch City fans should be Ty Lawson ranking third though he’s first in assist opportunities and that was with the woeful Denver Nuggets! Harden again finds himself among the Associations best point guards ranking 6th on the leader board. The real surprise is that neither the Atlanta Hawks or San Antonio Spurs have a player in the top 5 (though Jeff Teague does make the top 5 for secondary assists). Perhaps this is because their entire team move the ball which ends up distributing the assists throughout the entire team.

Defensive Impact

The main area the Houston Rockets improved this past season was defensively though they had their struggles in the later portion of the season oddly when they had more players healthy. I’d point to the loss of Patrick Beverley late in the campaign and the over use of Trevor Ariza as factors. Despite that fact the Rockets still found themselves among the leaders in steals with Harden and Ariza tied for 4th most steals (1.9) per game and Terrence Jones placing 8th in blocks per game (1.8).

Looking ahead with a healthy Dwight Howard this season and the expectation of Clint Capela progressing coupled with more minutes for K.J. McDaniels there is reason to believe the Rockets can maintain a top 5 defensive effort.

Rebounding

While Dwight Howard missed half the season to injury he still posted strong rebounding numbers ranking tied for 8th overall in rebounds per game (10.5). More importantly his prowess at rebounding remains intact as he tied for 3rd in rebounds per chance.

Though he isn’t the dominate force of his Orlando days he did play well in the post season. For Rockets fans it might be best to hope for a solid, consistent injury free season with occasional bursts to help win tight games and a return to his post season dominance. Further the return of a healthy Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and the addition of Montrezl Harrell should bode well for a strong versatile front court.

Drives

We should just rename the drive category to the Harden category given how he commands this segment making the top 5 in five separate sub sections within this discipline and he led in 3 of them. Ty Lawson also performed well making the top 5 list in three sub sections placing first in drives per game. To reiterate, I wish the Rockets’ opponents luck trying to figure out how to stop them both this upcoming season.

 Catch and Shoot

A rare category where we don’t find James Harden atop the leader board. The Rocket who does join the leaders is Trevor Ariza who places fifth in total points achieved from this type of shot. Looking ahead I can see this being the one offensive area Harden will make advances in 2015-16 as he’ll have Lawson driving and tossing him the ball out on the perimeter.

Pull Up Shooting

Big surprise again we find Harden among the league leaders. What we’ve learned by this point is the bearded man has shown why many around the league felt Harden deserved to win the Most Valuable Player Award last season.

The players gave him their nod by one single vote this summer, so maybe they spent more time reviewing the individual stats then the pundits or maybe they still felt the sting of having to go up against him during the season. No offense to Stephen Curry but when you examine the stats Harden had to do more with less!

Shooting Efficiency

Reviewing this final section of the player tracking stats showcased why specific teams ended up atop the offensive leader boards. What was expected is the big men who are closest to the basket notch high shooting percents and players like Kyle Korver performed well. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by was how well the top players performed especially in effective field goal percent.

Again Harden performed well which is a major accomplishment given how much he was tasked with, but still managed to shoot over 50% in the effective field goal percent sub section.

Final Thoughts

You can start to see how teams map out their defensive plans when you examine the trends. For example as previously mentioned we know Golden State rely on ball movement and spot up shooting to score especially via their two All-Star guards. Oklahoma have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook who provide their own nightmares for opposing defenses ranking 2nd and 6th in the pull up shooting category. Heading into a new season while the pundits seem to be leaning toward the Spurs, Warriors or Clippers taking the top of the West I maintain Oklahoma City will end up taking back what they feel they were robbed of via injury last season.

The Raptors had 3 players in the top 17 in the pull up shooting category with Lou Williams, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry accounting for 17.4 points per game. With Williams leaving town after the Raptors emphatically told him to take the Lakers offer one can assume their desire is to add  more versatility to their offense, no doubt incorporating their big man Jonas Valanciunas more into their offense.

While everyone expected the moves the Raptors made were primarily to improve defense the realty is they added two players who both shoot over 50% in effective field goal percent in DeMarre Carroll (57.9%) and Cory Joseph (52.3%) which will be added to players already shooting over 50% in efg% in James Johnson (60.3%), Valanciunas (57.2%), Patrick Patterson (54.7%) and Terrence Ross (50.7%). It’s not hard to see why the Raptors were one of the best offensive squads last season and potentially will remain atop the Association given they added two-way players.

We can extrapolate stats to see why the Clippers are also strong offensively with Chris Paul topping many categories or when you dig deep enough understanding why teams like San Antonio or Atlanta are strong across the board; while they may not have league leaders they have several players who rank just beneath the top 25 players and perform well fundamentally across all segments.

For Houston they can look forward to the efforts of James Harden and Ty Lawson working together on the court as the two guards found themselves atop many of the player tracking categories.

With the ability of both Rockets guards to drive, penetrate the paint, dish out assists and score on pull up shots the dynamics of Houston’s offense becomes extremely intriguing. In fact I’ll go out on a limb (a big one) and suggest Harden’s catch and shoot statistics will dramatically climb this season because he won’t need to be the sole player scoring and creating now.

Factor in a healthy Dwight Howard for an entire season, plus increased playing minutes for K.J. McDaniels and Clint Capela and much greater depth off the bench gives reason to hope for improvements both offensively and defensively in Clutch City.

I’ve listed each of the player stat categories below in quick links for a one stop hit of each category. Remember to stay connected with Space City Scoop and make us a daily stop on your reading list for all things Houston Rockets.

Next: Speed and Distance Player Stats

Next: Touches and Possessions Player Stats

Next: Passing Player Stats

Next: Defensive Impact Player Stats

Next: Rebounding Player Stats

Next: Player Stats For Drives

Next: Catch and Shoot Player Stats

Next: Pull Up Shooting Player Stats

Next: Shooting Efficiency Player Stats

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