The Houston Rockets are wasting their one elite skill

Houston Rockets v Boston Celtics
Houston Rockets v Boston Celtics / Omar Rawlings/GettyImages

The Houston Rockets are the only team in the NBA still stuck on one win. The team has been porous defensively and even worse on offense. It’s hard to go 1-15 in the NBA while simultaneously being elite at something, but the Rockets are doing just that. 

The Rockets’ 24.1 free throw attempts a game lead the NBA by a wide margin. The league average is 19.7 free throw attempts a game, and the gap between the Rockets in first and the Jazz in second is two full free throw attempts. The Rockets are a full 10-percent better than the league average at getting to the line than the second-best team. 

The Rockets' free throw attempts per game actually sell the squad short. The Rockets only attempt 85.6 field goal attempts per game, which is 28th in the NBA. The Rockets are able to attempt the most free throws from the third-fewest shots. 

Simply put, the Rockets are elite at generating free throws, but it has still led to the league’s worst offensive rating. So how are the Rockets wasting their one elite skill? 

Turnovers are killing the Houston Rockets

The first way is through turnovers. The Rockets play at the league’s fastest pace, but it is also paired with the league’s highest turnover rate. The Rockets turn the ball over 18.6 times per 100 possessions. The league average rate is approximately 14.7 turnovers per 100 possessions. 

The Rockets’ elite free throw rate could be even more impactful if they just held onto the ball a bit more, as they’re missing out on around four shooting opportunities per game. There are many ways to get their turnover problem under control, but until they do, they’ll remain near the bottom in offensive rating. 

The Houston Rockets cannot hit their free throws

The Rockets may be the best team at getting to the line, but they’re the worst once they get there. Their 68.6-percent free throw shooting is the worst in the NBA and it’s why they score the seventh-most points per game from the free throw line. 

The league converts 77.2-percent of their free throws. If the Rockets converted their free throws at an average rate, they’d go from scoring 16.5 points at the line a game to 18.6. A boost of 2.1 points a game would increase the Rockets’ points per game from 100.8 to 102.9. 

The Rockets’ one elite offensive skill is consistently neutralized by their league-worst turnover rate and free throw shooting. If the Rockets had an average turnover rate they’d get 1.1 extra free throws a game bringing their average up to 25.2 attempts a game. If they then hit their free throws at an average clip, they’d average 19.4 points from the line instead of 16.5. 

The Rockets’ one elite skill is being wasted. Their penchant for turnovers costs them chances to get to the line, and once there, they cannot seal the deal. The good news is that it’s much easier to reign in turnovers and improve at the stripe than it is to get there. The Rockets are doing the hard part, if they can do the easy things a bit better, they can pull their offense out of the basement. 

Next. Eric Gordon is the key to an offensive turnaround . dark