Are the Houston Rockets fated for an increase in turnovers this season?
Balance turnovers and pace
Mike D’Antoni is certainly no stranger to the run and gun style of basketball, as evidenced by his time as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns. I mean, there was even a book written by Jack McCallum about the 2005-06 Suns called :07 Seconds or Less. While Mike D’Antoni has grown accustomed to running a team that’s among the fastest in the NBA, Houston surprisingly finished 27th in the league in pace last year.
With Russell Westbrook joining the mix come October, it would be very surprising to see the Houston Rockets finish in the bottom half of the league this season in pace of play. On the most recent episode of RocketsCast Live with Craig Ackerman, D’Antoni was asked about the biggest things his team can improve upon this season and speeding up play was second only to defensive rebounding.
The veteran coach also was asked an important question regarding how he can balance playing faster with an increase in turnovers, and had this to say:
“Our key to the year will probably be if we can keep turnovers down. Anybody not named Russell or Harden better not turn it over. They have no room to turn it over. We’ll have to spread the floor out, the more you give them room to operate in space, the easier it’ll make it for them. Russell also could be in with the second group sometimes if I stagger James and Russell.”
It appears that Coach D’Antoni has already thought of this dilemma as well and has a number of options already in his head if turnovers become a major problem. I expect Mike will give Harden and Westbrook free rein to do what they do best in the open court to an extent but make some adjustments as needed if problems should arise. In the same podcast interview, D’Antoni stressed the importance of letting his players play to their strengths and making some changes as he sees fit. The more Mike is able to control his new explosive backcourt, the more the Rockets will succeed this season.
A key thing to remember is Harden and Westbrook have both been averaging a high number of turnovers as the primary ballhandlers of their respective teams. It is highly unlikely that the pair will finish first and second in turnovers per game again, given that they are now teammates and, for now, games are still only played with one basketball. Still, it will take a team effort to ensure Houston doesn’t finish toward the bottom of the league in turnovers this season.
If the Rockets do a good job adjusting their approach to the game on the fly, they should be able to enjoy a prosperous 2019-20 season.