The Houston Rockets’ unique style of play has them heads and shoulders above the rest of the league in this statistic in recent years.
It’s no secret that Mike D’Antoni is a fan of high octane, let-it-fly offense. As head coach of the Phoenix Suns from 2003-08, he changed the game with his ultra-quick tempo featuring Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire. He took that philosophy to New York and Los Angeles as well, before ending up doing the same for the Houston Rockets.
With D’Antonio’s emphasis on pace and the green light he gives to just about everyone to fire away from deep, comes one statistic the Rockets have been dominating since 2017-18. Over the last two seasons and so far this year, Houston has been way ahead of the pack when it comes to shooting rate from the outside.
Not only do the Rockets shoot more threes than anyone else, but it’s not even close. In fact, Houston is the only team in the NBA to finish the past two seasons shooting more than 50 percent of their total field goal attempts from beyond the arc. Here’s a breakdown of the top three teams in the league in recent years when it comes to percentage of their total shots being from downtown:
2017-181. Houston Rockets – 50.2 percent2. Brooklyn Nets – 41.1 percent3. Dallas Mavericks – 38.2 percent
2018-191. Houston Rockets – 51.9 percent2. Dallas Mavericks – 42.2 percent3. Milwaukee Bucks – 41.9 percent
2019-201. Houston Rockets – 50.6 percent2. Milwaukee Bucks – 45.3 percent3. Dallas Mavericks – 44.3 percent
In the last two seasons, the gap between the Rockets and second place was 9.1 percent or higher, which is a huge margin. So far this season, however, the gap is only 5.3 percent between Houston and Milwaukee Bucks.
Interestingly, the Dallas Mavericks and Bucks both seem to be frequent contenders in the race to hoist up the most three-balls, but the gap is still sizeable for now. Houston has shot a total of 687 times from outside after 15 games. The Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns haven’t even shot that many 2-pointers.
The question, then, becomes this: Is Houston getting their money’s worth when firing that many shots from the outside? When looking at percentage of threes made, the Rockets are toward the bottom of the league, making just 33.9 percent. Their total scoring average is third-best in the NBA, at 117.9 points per game. Here’s a look at points scored from 3-point range compared to total points per game for the highest scoring teams:
1. Washington Wizards: 119.7 PPG – 39 PPG from 3P2. Milwaukee Bucks: 119.6 PPG – 42 PPG from 3P3. Houston Rockets: 117.9 PPG – 46.5 PPG from 3P
Even though the Rockets aren’t shooting that well from the outside to start the season, they still shoot so many that they’re getting away with it. Of course, it helps that they’re creeping their way out of the bottom ten in opponents’ points per game, now at 21st with 113.1.
Still, Mike D’Antoni will need to make sure that the longball isn’t the team’s only strategy when the postseason approaches. Everyone remembers the 27 straight threes his ballclub missed in a crucial Game 7 against Golden State in 2018.
There will be stretches when the Rockets can’t buy a bucket from outside, and that’s when they will need to get more creative with their offense.