Over the past decade, the Houston Rockets have been at the forefront of the advanced statistics trend in the NBA.
Ever since the Houston Rockets hired Daryl Morey in 2007, the Houston Rockets have been at the forefront of advanced analytics. From the pioneering game plan of paint points and 3-pointers only to bringing in players that don’t fit the typical mold of most teams like Shane Battier and P.J. Tucker and turning these players into analytic all-stars. This season is no different and these particular advance stats will help determine if the Rockets can take that next step this year.
When you think of defense, the normal stats come to mind. Steals, blocks, and defensive rebounds. One stat that isn’t talked about enough is deflections. This stat doesn’t always lead to a turnover but can be just as disruptive as a steal.
A perfectly ran play can be shut down by a defender knocking away a post past or a backdoor cut. The Houston Rockets have been top 10 in deflections for the last two years and James Harden went from finishing 20th in deflections in the 2017-18 season to 2nd in deflections last year. There will be some people who still say that Harden is a bad defender but deflections are due to effort and anticipation, two traits that don’t describe a bad defender. With the addition of Russell Westbrook, who was eighth last year in deflections, the Rockets should be one of the top deflections teams in the league once again.
Loose ball recovered percentage
Another stat that is often overlooked but can be the difference between winning and losing, especially in playoff games, is coming up with the 50/50 balls or loose balls. When the Rockets won 65 games in the 2017-18 season, they were seventh in loose balls recovered percentage, but last year they fell to just 14th.
This may not seem like a big deal, but the Rockets essentially gave more possessions to their opponents last season than they did in the previous year. Championship teams excel at winning the hustle plays. Small stats like this add up over the course of an NBA season and there were several cases of this in the last game of the Rockets-Warriors playoff series last year. Throughout their Game 6 loss, the Rockets would get a stop on defense but didn’t win the fight for loose balls or rebounds, which led to several extra possessions for the Warriors and ultimately the end of Houston’s season.
This advanced stat is more well known and is used by every NBA team. The formula to calculate defensive rating is (Players Steals*Blocks) + Opponents Differential= 1/5 of possessions – Times blown by + Deflections * OAPDW( Official Adjusted Players Defensive Withstand. This stat can’t be influenced by the defense of a player’s teammates. Its a good measure of how well your team is doing defensively overall.
The Houston Rockets went from seventh in defensive rating in the 2017-18 season to just 17th last year. They improved as the year went on but it was definitely a step back defensively for the Rockets. A lot of factors went into Houston’s struggles on defense. Clint Capela started the year slowly and dealt with injuries early on. Jeff Bzdelik, the architect of the Rockets’ switching defense, was not with the team at the beginning of the year. Trevor Ariza left for the Wizards and Luc Mbah a Moute went back to the Clippers over the summer of 2018.
The Rockets have to get better on defense to become NBA champions this year. With Clint Capela, Austin Rivers, Tyson Chandler and P.J. Tucker leading the way, they have the tools to be a top 10 team on defense.