Can the Rockets’ starters solve their defensive problems?

Houston Rockets v Denver Nuggets
Houston Rockets v Denver Nuggets / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages
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Coming into the 2022-23 season, no one thought the Houston Rockets were going to be a defensive juggernaut. They were fresh off a season with the 29th-ranked defense and were fractions away from 30th. Without any major additions, unless you count rookies, the Rockets were running it back with virtually the same cast of defensive misfits. 

After a quarter of the season, the Rockets’ defensive rating of 116.5 is fractions better than last season’s 116.7, but the raw difference sells them a little short. The league average offensive rating is 112.8 but was 112 last season. They’re also safely away from the basement, where the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs are tied with defensive ratings of 118.6. However, the Rockets’ five-man starting lineup may have other ideas. 

The Rockets starters have been horribly inept on defense

A tweet from the famous Clutch Fans brought the defensive ineptitude of the Rockets’ starting lineup to my attention. It wasn’t that I didn’t know they were bad, all it takes is five minutes of watching them to know that, but I was not aware of the depths of despair they had entered. 

The lineup of Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Eric Gordon, Jabari Smith Jr., and Alperen Sengun is the Rockets’ most-used five-man lineup at 183 minutes and is currently sporting a 125.7 defensive rating. Considering the Boston Celtics’ 122.2 offensive rating is in pole position to go down as the greatest offense in league history, it cannot be overstated just how bad that lineup has been defensively. Can this unit turn it around and go from historically comically bad to just normal bad?