Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni was quick to point out the biggest flaw the team needs to improve upon this season.
In a recent podcast interview with Craig Ackerman for RocketsCast Live, Mike D’Antoni was asked about the biggest area that needs to be improved upon for the Houston Rockets to be more successful this season.
Without skipping a beat, Coach D’Antoni pointed to defensive rebounding as the biggest weakness of last season’s team, stating, “Well the biggest thing is our defensive rebounding. A little bit our offensive rebounding, but mostly our defensive rebounding.”
In 2018-19, Houston averaged 31.9 defensive rebounds per game, which had them tied with Cleveland for 29th in the NBA, ahead of only the Phoenix Suns. On the offensive side, Houston rebounded at a rate of 10.2 per game, tied for 14th in the league. Due to the defensive rebounding rate being so low, the Rockets finished 28th in the league in total rebounds per game at 42.1 per last season.
“That hurt us and kept us from winning a couple of extra games. That is the number one focus,” explained D’Antoni.
When asked about what led to such a dramatic dropoff in defensive rebounding between two seasons ago and last season, Mike offered up a few explanations:
“For me, most of it’s personnel. You lose Trevor Ariza, who is long and lanky, and gets rebounds. Then Eric (Gordon) started. Eric’s kind of on the ground — he’s not a big leaper. Each guy individually fell off a little bit…Danuel House was here and then he wasn’t here. He’s kind of that athletic three that we need to get rebounds.”
The good news for Houston, as D’Antoni also pointed out, is that new addition Russell Westbrook is an exceptional rebounder at his position. Over his career, Russ has averaged seven rebounds per game, upping that number to 10.6 over the last three seasons. 2018-19 was his best rebounding effort yet, as he pulled down a staggering 11.1 total rebounds per game, which was a full 2.3 rebounds better than the next point guard on the list (Ben Simmons).
Mike D’Antoni knows the biggest key to success for the upcoming season and has the personnel to get the job done. As the Houston Rockets prepare to compete in a re-tooled Western Conference, expect them to hit the boards with more urgency this time around.