Can the Houston Rockets have a top-5 defense?

MEMPHIS, TN - NOVEMBER 18: Mario Chalmers
MEMPHIS, TN - NOVEMBER 18: Mario Chalmers /

The Rockets have surprised with how good their defense has been early on this season.

The Houston Rockets have been a solid defensive team so far this season. The currently sit at 7th in the league in defensive rating (Basketball-Reference) after a great game against the Grizzlies on that end of the court.

Luc Mbah a Moute, according to the Houston Chronicle, says that the Rockets can be a top-5 defensive team in the NBA. Pairing that with their top-2 offense would create quite a team to contest the Warriors.

The question is, can they actually have a top-5 defense?

Why it may happen soon

First off, the Rockets have an upcoming schedule that could boost them into the top-5 in the league defensively. Their next game is a tough one, however, against the Nuggets. Denver is one of the best offensive teams in the league and will give the Rockets a good test. The Knicks are after that and they have been pretty good offensively, as well.

After Denver and New York, though, Houston will play the Nets (21st ORtg), Pacers (5th ORtg), Lakers (28th ORtg), Jazz (24th ORtg) & Trail Blazers (16th ORtg).

The Pacers have a top-5 offense right now but the Rockets shut them down in their one meeting in Indiana.

By the end of this stretch, will the Rockets be one of the top defensive teams in the league?

Defensive ability

The Rockets have all the tools to be a great defensive team. Three out of the five members of the starting lineup (Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela) are excellent defenders. James Harden and Ryan Anderson, the other two, are actually improving defenders as well.

Off the bench, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute are both excellent on-ball defenders. At their low salaries, the Rockets have some serious value from those two in the second unit. Nene is also a great defensive player and Eric Gordon has been pretty solid.

The two liabilities previously mentioned, James Harden and Ryan Anderson, can generally be hidden when needed. Anderson also does not generally finish games, so the Rockets have some great end of game defensive lineups.

The Rockets have all these versatile defenders and switch on almost every screen. They are surprisingly successful at that and even Clint Capela has a knack for blocking point guards he switches onto.

For those reasons, the Rockets should be able to have a top-5 defense.

Luc Mbah a Moute said of Rockets: “We can be a top-5 defense”

— Hunter Atkins (@HunterAtkins35) November 20, 2017

The last time the Rockets were top-10 in defense…

The Rockets were in the Conference Finals the last time they had a top-10 defense in the league. In 2015, they had the 8th rated defense by ORtg. Can Houston one-up that and make it a top-5 defense this year?

Next: Chris Paul has been impressive since returning from injury