With Coach Mike D’Antoni pushing for increased pace, the Houston Rockets will need to make sure it doesn’t cost them valuable possessions this season.
With the 2019-20 NBA season just around the corner, fans of the Houston Rockets have plenty to be excited about. Coming off another disappointing series loss to the Golden State Warriors, Clutch City had an impressive offseason that could propel them toward the top half of the Western Conference once again. One move Houston made in particular, while definitely game-changing, may come with a new problem that the team will have to figure out quickly.
As the whole world knows by now, the Rockets pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal over the summer that sent 34-year-old nine-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul to Oklahoma City for the 30-year-old eight-time All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. With the deal, Houston gave up two future first-round picks, which coincides with what Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta recently expressed; the Rockets believe their time to win a championship is right now.
With the trade, Houston now has one of the most dynamic backcourts the league has ever seen in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. The duo combined has earned just about every offensive NBA award that exists, and probably even one or two that don’t. While their collective resumés are certainly remarkable, there’s one negative statistic the two superstars have in common — turnovers.
Turnovers per game is not a statistic in which you want to finish at the top. Last season, James Harden and Russell Westbrook finished one and two in turnovers per game at 5.0 and 4.5, respectively. In 2017-18, the two swapped positions but were still one and two at season’s end. 2016-17? Harden, one, Russ, two. 2015-16? Wizards point guard John Wall was actually…third behind James and Russell. You have to go back to 2015 to find a season where the new Rockets duo weren’t first and second in the NBA in turnovers per game, and even that season they finished first and third.
Russ and James generally like to play at a frenetic pace, pushing the ball when they can in search of an easy transition bucket. Considering the frequency with which they handle the ball each season, it’s not shocking to see them with a higher turnover rate than others. The problem, as you can see, is their individual turnover problems don’t just date back to last season.
Sure, this season will be a completely different situation for both stars, but it would be foolish to think this turnover issue will completely disappear without some adjustments. Luckily, there are a few things D’Antonio’s crew can do to avoid such a fate.
Next: Remedy No. 1