Should you “Buy or Sell” the Houston Rockets' preseason success?
The numbers that should give the Rockets pause
The Rockets’ scorching shooting in the preseason masked an ugly turnover rate. Their 20.3 turnovers per game were the most in the preseason, and their 19.2% turnover rate was the second highest. Last season, turnovers were the primary driver of the Rockets’ bottom five offense. Their effective field goal percentage of 53.4% was tied with the Sixers for the 16th best mark and their free throw to field goal attempt rate of .202 was the eighth best, but their league leading turnover rate of 14.5% led the league by a full 1%.
Another concern is the Rockets' proclivity at defending and converting 3-pointers. The Rockets are highly unlikely to shoot 41.9% from 3-point range over the course of a full season. Last season, the Miami Heat led the NBA in 3-point shooting at 37.9%. Expecting the Rockets, who shot 34.9% from behind the arc only a season ago, to vault to the top of the team 3-point shooting leaderboards would be foolish.
On the defensive end, there is next to no chance that the Rockets will hold opponents to 29.2% 3-point shooting. While the best defenses are able to hold opponents to inefficient marks behind the arc, no one came close to holding the opposition to a sub-30% 3-point shooting mark, last season. The Heat, Warriors, and Celtics tied for the stingiest 3-point shooting defense at 33.9%.
The preseason Rockets were 4% better at hitting and defending threes than the best teams last season. That type of excellence cannot be expected throughout an entire season.
The final area of concern is what the Rockets did on the defensive boards. While they grabbed the third most defensive rebounds per game, their defensive rebounding percentage of 70.5% ranked 23rd. Doing the basic arithmetic, the Rockets gave their opponents a 29.5% offensive rebounding rate. This is especially concerning because the Rockets were the worst defensive rebounding team in the league last season.