Houston Rockets Improvement #1: Get to the free-throw line
As NBA offenses have become more and more analytically efficient through prioritization of the three most valuable shots, lay-ups, 3-pointers, and free-throws, offense league-wide has exploded. While teams go about getting these shots in different fashions, the fact remains that the best offenses tend to attempt and convert all three of these shots at high rates.
The Rockets have excelled at getting two of these shots this season but in a third, they have lagged behind. While the Rockets have experienced a step back in their volume of 3-pointers this season from the prior one, they still remain in the top-five in the number of 3-point attempts.
The Rockets are still chucking threes, which is good, and through 21 games they are third in the league with their rate of attempts 0-3 feet from the rim and are second in the percentage of 2-pointers they attempt that are lay-ups. Taking threes and lay-ups is a good base to have but the Rockets are currently have lagged behind in the number of free-throw attempts they’ve been able to generate.
Losing James Harden was always going to hurt the Rockets’ ability to get to the free-throw line. With Harden still on the roster, the Rockets got to the line 23.9 times a game, which would be the sixth-best mark in the league, but since he was traded, they’ve only taken 20.2, which would be fifth-worst.
The Rockets’ inability to generate free throws is surprising considering they’re able to get to the rim with such frequency. Shots at the rim lead to free throws more than any other shot, which makes the Rockets’ lack of free throws so unlikely to continue.
The fundamentals of a good offense are there for the Rockets, 3-pointers and lay-ups, but to get from the bottom third to the top third on offense they need to start getting to the line with more frequency. If the team remains aggressive and starts to welcome more contact expect them to see a boost on offense, one free throw at a time.
Next: Improvement #2