The Houston Rockets’ season is underway and the defense is already off to a horrible start, looking much worse than any Rockets defense in recent memory. The departure of Assistant Coach Jeff Bzdelik is one major reason.
Although the Houston Rockets have only played two games so far, there is cause for concern regarding their defense. The Rockets have started the season by allowing 120 points per game, which is even worse than it sounds.
Even though their record is 1-1, the Rockets are actually giving up more points than they are scoring, allowing 35.4 percent outside shooting and 46.2 percent overall. Given that Houston is shooting 31.2 from deep and 41.3 percent from the field, these figures are not exactly a recipe for success.
Last season, the Rockets allowed 109 points per game, which was tenth-best in the league. It was miraculous the Rockets were able to even finish the season that high and it was because the Rockets re-hired Jeff Bzdelik. The current Pelicans Associate Head Coach led the Rockets to the sixth-fewest points per game in the 2017-18 season at 103.9 points per, also helping them finish sixth in defensive rating.
Last season, at the time the Rockets announced they were bringing back Bzdelik, the Rockets defense had been allowing 112 points per game on 47.8 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from downtown after the first eight games. That was enough for the team to realize they needed Bzdelik back on the sidelines, and his presence helped spark a defensive turnaround. After the All-Star break, the Rockets allowed 100.4 points per game on 43.1 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from deep.
So far, this season has been much worse, as the opponent’s 3-point shooting percentage and points per game have actually been higher than the early stretch of the 2018-19 season. Part of the problem could be that new Rockets defensive coordinator Elston Turner has decided to go away from the switch-heavy defensive scheme Bzdelik utilized, which the Rockets thrived under.
Going forward, that might be a good idea to revisit, as the Rockets are on pace for their worst defensive rating and more points allowed per game than any of the three years under Bzdelik. There were questions regarding how the Rockets’ defense would look under Turner and the early season returns aren’t all that promising, to say the least.
Fortunately, we’re only two games into the season so there’s plenty of time to get things fixed, but it goes without saying that the defense needs to drastically improve. Being that he’s now under Alvin Gentry’s staff in New Orleans, Bzdelik won’t be available to correct the problems this time around, but his past strategies should be given a look if defensive struggles continue.