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Analyzing the Houston Rockets’ defensive changes

N.B. Lindberg
Houston Rockets v Utah Jazz
Houston Rockets v Utah Jazz / Chris Gardner/GettyImages
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The Houston Rockets’ disappointing start to the 2022-23 season has a multitude of culprits. The offense looks disjointed, the roster is incredibly young, and it has led to Stephen Silas’ job security being called into question. However, the saying, “defense wins championships,” has stood the test of time for a reason. So how has the Rockets’ offense looked in the early stages of the season?

This early in a season, it’s hard to make sweeping judgments about a team’s defense. One or two hot opponent shooting nights can make a good defense look mediocre, and a few cold shooting streaks can mask a leaky defense riding good fortune. There’s also the reality that defense, by its nature, is more reactionary than offense, so stylistic and schematic changes can be hard to pinpoint.

All stats are of October 29, 2022

The Rockets’ defense compared to last season

The Rockets’ defense has not been good. Their defensive rating of 116.2 is 23rd in the league and far off the league average of 112.9. That being said, they’ve actually improved on their defensive showing from last season. 

In 2021-22, the Rockets finished the season with the 29th-ranked defensive rating of 116.7. An improvement of 0.5 points per 100 possessions is hardly noticeable to the naked eye test, but it’s still impressive considering the average defensive rating has increased from 112 in 2021-22 to 112.9.

The Rockets’ defense, compared to the league average, has improved by 1.3% this season compared to last. Shaving over a point off your defensive rating without making any major additions is notable progress, and there is some evidence that it is, to a degree, real. 

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