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Space City Scoop Round Table – Houston Rockets 2015-16 Season: Part 1

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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May 25, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones (6) defends the shot of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the second half in game four of the Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs. at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Q1: What changes will the Rockets make on defense this season?

Andre: Given that the Rockets added Ty Lawson, some rotation and adjustments may prove necessary as the team could become excessively offensive. I was especially impressed with Trevor Ariza’s defensive performances in the playoffs last season, Houston could probably build on that. But mainly I imagine that in due time Clint Capela will be a massive force inside the paint. He’s already shown glimpses of potential shot blocking and rim defense in the playoffs so I reckon that during the season if coach McHale needs a more defensive-oriented team he may experiment with Capela and Howard together. Bottom line, it all depends on how the big Swiss center develops this year.

Anthony: Last year we were terrible with limiting transition opportunities for opposing teams so an emphasis on getting back is expected. Also with Lawson being on the court I expect a lot of teams will utilize 1 and 2 screen action to take advantage of him being undersized. With Lawson on the floor I can see some limitations to Houston’s switch happy defense being in play.

Coty: I hope the Rockets will become a better rebounding team, especially if Dwight Howard plays fewer minutes this season. Last year if Howard did not play, the Rockets were out rebounded by their opponents. In order for the Rockets to win a title, they must become a better rebounding team, and stop relying on one player.

Eric: Hopefully the Rockets don’t make many changes defensively this season. The Rockets turned into a top 10 defense last season, and they absolutely must stay in that range in order to win the Western Conference. The Rockets defense fell off quite a bit during the playoffs, and with Ty Lawson (a sub-par defender) entering the mix, the coaching staff will most likely have to devise a game plan to hide both Lawson and Harden’s defensive deficiencies.

James: I think the most obvious improvement on the defensive end will be the sorely missed presence of Patrick Beverley combined with the summer James Harden has had to improve his defensive abilities after many people knocked on him for his lack of attention on that end of the floor.

The Rockets as a team have a better idea of what it takes to go far in the playoffs and they also know how crucial every little thing can be down the stretch. So, in a nutshell, they’ve got added experience.

John: The Rockets will hope that Dwight Howard can return to the defensive stopper he was once known to be. They will also hope that James Harden continues to improve on defense. With Lawson in the fold look for them to use Beverley in smaller lineups to guard the best backcourt player on the floor, and hopefully his defensive skills will rub off on the rest of the team. All those things coming together should improve the team defensively. With Beverley on the floor everyone seems to get just a little better on the defensive end.

Joshua: In the past, Morey has emphasized that teams that win championships fall within the top ten in defensive categories. For the Rockets to take the next step as a team, they have to put more emphasis on defense as a whole. Last season, they got off to a great start on the defensive end, but slowly turned into a mediocre defensive team. This year, look for the Rockets to have an elite shot blocker on the floor at all times in Dwight Howard or Clint Capela.

Trey: Having Beverley back is a big deal for the Rockets, but being able to have Donatas Motiejunas and Howard on the floor together will be the biggest defensive upgrade this season.

Tamberlyn: How McHale aligns starters and reserves could determine where the Rockets finish the season defensively. Last season their duo focus was protecting the paint and anything behind the arc. While this produced the 6th best defense, notably they started sliding from a top 3 defense once Beverley got injured.

This season they bring back strong defenders in Ariza, Beverley, Howard and McDaniels. McHale emphasized on Media Day they’ll be looking to improve their defensive rebounding to limit second chance scoring. Interestingly they finished tied for 8th in this category with 44 a game and 7th overall on offensive rebounding with 11.5 per game. The obvious area to clean up is turnovers where they ranked 28th in the NBA with 15.7 per game and transition defense.

Lawson should help limit the turnovers despite their goal of increasing the pace from last season. And while some of my counterparts seem concerned about Lawson’s size or defensive efficiency I think with stronger court mates his overall performance will be better. The best news for McHale is he can always insert Beverley if he needs to ramp up the defense late in games and he’ll have his choice of McDaniels, Capela, Howard, Jones, Harrell (as well as Motiejunas when he returns) to defend at the rim and protect the paint.

Next: What's An Offensive Juggernaut?

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