Through two games, the Rockets are a perfect 2-0. What has their rotation looked like?
The Rockets have made it through their first back-to-back of the year with two wins. It also happened to be their first two games of the season. The rotation was a question coming into the season and we may finally have some answers now.
The one certainty before the season was that one of Chris Paul and James Harden would be on the floor at all times. In the game that Paul played in, that held true. But how often will they play together?
Harden and Paul together
Mike D’Antoni said before the first game that he expects Chris Paul and James Harden to play around 18 minutes a game together, including the final 5. That accounts for the first 6 minutes of each half and the last 5 minutes of the 4th quarter, with 1 to use at some other point in the game, if he wants to spread the minutes out like that.
Chris Paul did not play the last part of the Warriors game due to his knee injury and the whole Kings game, so we did not get to see that plan in action. Hopefully, CP3 returns soon and healthy so that we can see the rotation completely.
— theScore NBA (@theScoreNBA) October 17, 2017
Capela’s various matchups
Capela had a very different first two games. In game one vs. the Warriors, he only played 18 minutes due to how often the Warriors go small. The Rockets elected to go with Luc Mbah a Moute along with Ryan Anderson and P.J. Tucker at the small-ball 5.
This could be a theme for Capela against teams that tend to play more small-ball. He is most effective when defending real centers. You could see that last night when he went against Willie Cauley-Stein and Kostas Koufos and dropped 22 points and 7 rebounds in 28 minutes. He should play that kind of minutes against bigger teams.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is playing big minutes so far for the team. In the first game with Chris Paul, he had 29. In the second one where he started, he had 35. He should hover around the late 20s by the end of the season. He played fantastic next to CP3 and/or Harden during the game against the Warriors.
Tucker and Mbah a Moute
P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute have been huge for the Rockets off the bench in the first two games. Tucker goes in around the same time as Gordon in the 1st quarter, while Mbah a Moute relieves Ariza a little bit later. Trevor Ariza is someone who is capable of playing big minutes if needed, so I expect this rotational theme to be the same throughout the year.
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End of game lineup
The end of the game lineup has been intriguing to watch for the Rockets so far. Harden has been out there of course, but so have Tucker and Gordon as well as Ariza and Mbah a Moute. This high-defense lineup can now actually stop opponents at the end of games but is still able to score.
Paul missed the end of the first game and the whole second game and he will for sure be in their regularly. He will likely replace Gordon or Mbah a Moute to finish games.
How many players in the rotation?
The rotation will go 9 deep, as expected. They only played 8 deep against Golden State, however, due to the small-ball lineups.
Paul, Harden, Ariza, Anderson, Capela, Gordon, Tucker, Mbah a Moute, Nene (or Black). Those are the 9 players that will play during close games. Thankfully for the Rockets, they are all high-quality players.