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NBA Scouts opine on Houston Rockets in Sports Illustrated’s ‘The Crossover’

By Tamberlyn Richardson
Oct 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) cheers for this team as the take on the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at the Toyota Center. The Grizzlies defeat the Rockets 134-125. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) cheers for this team as the take on the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at the Toyota Center. The Grizzlies defeat the Rockets 134-125. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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Houston Rockets defense was questioned by anonymous NBA scouts in SI.com’s new NBA dedicated vertical ‘The Crossover’ .

During the offseason most National pundits, analysts and bloggers have cited the Houston Rockets defensive issues. Despite the Rockets defensively minded new hire – Jeff Bzdelik, Houston’s defense has been a continuing narrative.

‘The Crossover’ inaugural issue offers anonymous scouting reports on all 30 teams. So, it was no surprise Houston’s defense was the main talking point. You can read the full Western Conference scouting report here and the Eastern Conference report here.

When you read the words from ‘an anonymous source’ you expect to find some juicy details. In the case of Houston, there wasn’t much new delivered. None the less it’s a must read. That said, SCS has been speculating all summer long on the Rocket’s decisions and this article added fuel to the fire.

Top Comments from Scouting Report:

Here’s some statements from the professional NBA scout who commented on the Houston Rockets.

Morey’s job is under scrutiny:

“I thought it was an interesting approach to the off-season to say, ‘Alright, f— it, we’re going all in on offense. F— defense.’ … I don’t know how much of it was Daryl or the owner. There’s been some rumors that D’Antoni wasn’t really Daryl’s call.

Well hey, let’s not mix words. There is so much to choose from in this opening statement to respond to. First, the fact Leslie Alexander demanding inclusion in the coaching search and free agent meetings was a definitive message for Daryl Morey. It said, your job isn’t as secure as it used to be. In FanSided’s Houston Rockets preview I made the same point, just not as colorfully.  Second, it was felt Alexander’s inclusion in the meetings basically meant he’d be making the final call on the new coaching hire.

Sep 23, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey during media day at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

D’Antoni won’t care about defense:

They’re gonna be awesome on offense. … I gotta think they’re gonna be atrocious on defense. D’Antoni, every time he’s been a head coach he hasn’t really cared about defense. And as these coaches get older, they just lose the desire to fight those battles every day.

As mentioned, the on-going narrative this offseason and preseason has focused on Houston’s offensive prowess and weakness defensively. It’s no secret the Rockets addition of shooters, play makers and overall versatility has them functioning on all cylinders offensively. The Rockets rank first offensively in preseason with more than an 8 point gap on their nearest rival (Warriors).

Preseason offensive rating which bases the ranking on points scored per 100 possessions also ranks Houston first. The Rockets 113.3 rating tops the second ranked Raptors (109.2). While the new super team Warriors who are still figuring out their chemistry rank third (107.3).

Rockets’ Preseason Defense Begs to Differ:

Yet the surprise for many may be where the Rockets rank defensively (also based on opponent points allowed in 100 possessions).  In this category Houston sit just outside the top-10 ranking 11th with 98.0 points. Not to be ignored is at the end of last season the second place defensive ranked team was Atlanta with 98.8.

Basically the scout is saying that Mike D’Antoni will eventually stop caring and pushing the team to continue these efforts. George Karl and his 2015-16 Kings are specifically noted as the example by the scout.

Let’s dig deeper into this statement; the scout is suggesting the Rockets’ players themselves will lose their defensive intensity and desire.  Not to be contrary, but James Harden and company have indicated they are ‘all in’ on defense. Just two short seasons ago the Rockets finished in the top-10. Notably when Houston spent much of 2014-15 ranked in the top-3 without 2 of their best defenders (Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley) on the floor.

Ultimately this question won’t be answered until the season commences, however if the players are true to their word defense is equally important to them. Time will tell.

Capela kudo’s plus questions about his size:

Two specific comments from the scout:

I like Clint Capela, he’s gonna be good. He’s a very good rebounder, he’s a good shot-blocker…

It’ll also be interesting to see if teams use a mobile four on Capela, because it’s not as if Capela is really going to punish smaller guys in the post. …

These two comments stood out in terms of when this scout offered his opinion. In particular the second part. The reason is the Rockets added Nene Hilario, who, for all intensive purposes will be able to body up with larger bigs when Clint Capela can’t.

More from Space City Scoop

The elephant in the room remains whether Daryl Morey and BJ Armstrong (Donatas Motiejunas‘ agent) can resolve D’Mo’s contract. I was surprised there was no mention of this in the article. Bottom line, if (or should I say when) that deal gets done, and if the team signs Kyle Wiltjer the Rockets’ front court gets a huge versatility boost.

Other areas the scout highlighted was how teams would try to expose Anderson defensively or stop him and Harden offensively.  It was noted D’Antoni would easily address these issues and Harden is impossible to stop.

Overall, it’s an interesting read with anonymous shade thrown and lots of opinions from the scouts.

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Check out the article on SI.com’s ‘The Crossover’ and let us know what you think.

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