With the Houston Rockets’ new small-ball approach, the way they substitute and manage minutes will be crucial toward their success going forward.
With the numerous trade deadline deals they made, the Houston Rockets created an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talented wings to share minutes. While James Harden and Russell Westbrook are obvious choices for regular minutes, who else should be a part of the regular rotation?
When it comes to the starting lineup, it should stay as it has been recently, which is the fivesome of Harden, Westbrook, Danuel House, Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker. Tucker and Covington are easy choices due to them being the Rockets’ two best defenders and glue guys on the team.
House is the one who has been in and out of the starting lineup, but the Rockets are 28-11 when he starts and 8-9 when he doesn’t. He also brings more height to this starting group than the other options and is one of the Rockets’ better outside shooters.
Shifting to the bench, the first guy up should always be Eric Gordon. Gordon brings a unique dynamic to the Rockets because he is a versatile offensive player and can play solid perimeter defense. Gordon can also be a secondary ball-handler, reliable shooter and legitimate third scoring option at any given time.
The rest of the rotation is not as set in stone. Essentially, it should be based on the matchup and sometimes vary from game to game. For some games, Mike D’Antoni might have to choose between Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore.
Is there more of a need for 3-point spot-up shooting? Go with Ben. Are ball-handling and perimeter defense more important this time around? Go with Austin.
At 35-years-old, Thabo Sefolosha should be the odd man out and only be an insurance guy in case of injuries. Recently acquired DeMarre Carroll should take his place as the backup four because he brings size and 3-and-D capabilities to the second unit, so the drop off in this unit on the defensive side is not as drastic as it is with Thabo playing.
Another trade deadline addition, Jeff Green, needs to be in the rotation permanently as the backup five because he brings needed length, athleticism and rebounding to the floor for the Rockets. Green is also versatile and able to switch on the perimeter and move his feet well.
Combine that with Green’s ability to stretch the defense out and knock down outside shots, and you have a guy that needs to play steady minutes every night. Green is also the most likely player in the regular rotation that can fill the shoes of Clint Capela when it comes to receiving lobs off of double teams or in fast-break situations.
Hopefully, the Rockets can stay healthy and get a good look at this rotation for the last couple of months of the season to start to build some continuity and rhythm to go into the playoffs rolling. They certainly have the personnel to do so.