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Should the Houston Rockets be more accepting of the two-point shot?

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images)
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There are three things that are guaranteed in life: death, taxes and the Houston Rockets firing away from 3-point land. But should they be more accepting of the 2-point shot?

The Houston Rockets are married to the 3-point shot, as they’ve set an NBA record in 3-point attempts in each of the last three years. As if that weren’t enough, the Rockets are on pace to set the record for most 3-point attempts this season.

But the Rockets’ 3-point efficiency has dropped in each of the last two seasons (including this one), which is understandable considering the 3-point shooters the Rockets have parted ways with over the years. The Rockets have traded or waived long-range shooters like Trevor Ariza, Chris Paul and now Ryan Anderson, which will certainly cause a drop off in 3-point shooting efficiency. Ariza is a career 35 percent 3-point shooter, CP3 is a career 37.1 percent sniper from deep and Ryno is a career 38 percent shooter from downtown.

The Rockets are shooting 34 percent from downtown, which is 25th best in the league during the 2019-20 season. It goes without saying, but 25th best in the NBA is a far cry from a team that prides itself on shooting and making the 3-ball. It also can’t go ignored that a lot of it has to do with the composition of this Rockets team.

Outside of James Harden, the Rockets essentially only have two 3-point snipers, which are P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, who are each shooting better than 40 percent on the year. Since James Harden is such a big threat from downtown, teams are doubling him, which is getting the ball out of his hands.

The Houston Rockets decided to add Russell Westbrook in the offseason, and we all know Westbrook is certainly not viewed as an elite 3-point shooter. Westbrook is instead a slasher who uses his supreme athleticism to get to the rim and to run the break. But Russ has been forced to assimilate to the Rockets’ ways, as evidenced by his 5.8 3-point attempts per game, which is the second most of his career. Westbrook is making 49.3 percent of his 2-point field goals this season, which is the second most of his career by contrast, and he also has a patented mid-range shot, which he often has been able to bank in off the glass.

So why is Westbrook uncharacteristically shooting the trey ball as often as he is? When the Rockets had CP3 last season, he shot 47.9 percent from the mid-range and was given the green light to take mid-range shots, which the Rockets should be doing more of this year also.

Another example of how the Houston Rockets could/should be more accepting of the 2-point shot is Austin Rivers. Rivers is shooting 29 percent from deep this season, which is the second lowest of his career.

However Rivers is shooting 54.7 percent on his 2-point field goals, which is the highest of his career. In spite of that, Rivers is averaging his fourth most 3-point attempts of his career, which begs the question of why he’s not taking more shots inside the 3-point line.

Sure, I understand the Rockets have been built to heave countless triples in past years, but the reality is they aren’t built that way this year. On top of that, with teams opting to send multiple bodies at Harden, there’s enough space for the person on the receiving end of Harden’s pass to drive to the basket or settle for a shot inside the line.

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It’s doubtful that the Rockets will abandon their heavy 3-point usage, but it’s something they should really consider with their lack of 3-point shooters. At the end of the day, the Rockets don’t have a plethora of scorers and the goal is to make shots, so the Rockets would be wise to accept a higher percentage shot than continue to heave treys that they’ve not been making this season.

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