The Houston Rockets' Big Problem
Plus/Minus isn’t a perfect metric, but if it resoundingly points towards something, then it’s worth investigating further. This season, in the 309 minutes when the Rockets have played Theis and Wood together they have a -20.6 net rating. In the 150 minutes when Wood and Sengun have shared the court their net rating is -10.6. Theis and Sengun have yet to play together.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to know that when the Rockets feature two centers they’re a dumpster fire. However, on a relative scale, when they play one center things improve dramatically.
In 336 minutes with Christian Wood as the lone big, the Rockets have a +1.6 net rating. In 276 of pure Sengun, their net rating is -3.5. And in 78 minutes of Theis as the solo act, the Rockets net rating is -8.2.
A few caveats need to be presented. The Rockets, when they don’t play any of their centers, have a net rating of +24.6 in 56 minutes. The other important note is that the Theis-Wood dual big lineup has run into rotten luck on both offense and defense.
In the pair's 309 minutes, the Rockets have shot 47.6-percent on 2-pointers and 28.7-percent on 3-pointers, while their opponents have shot 36.7-percent on 3-pointers. The pairing should be better with better luck, but it’s not going to erase a -20.6 net rating.
One of the Rockets’ biggest problems is incredibly clear. They should never play two bigs. The roster they have is not capable of playing effective basketball when there are two centerish players on the court.
Houston Rockets: Why Daniel Theis needs to go
Daniel Theis isn’t a bad NBA player. He’s simply in a horrible situation for the type of player he is. For his and the franchise’s sake, he needs to be traded as soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 15th.
Theis was signed in the offseason to a four-year $36 million deal to be the Rockets' backup center. At the time, the deal made some sense. Theis is a tough small-ball center who would be a solid to an above-average backup center on most teams.
Unfortunately, well actually, fortunately, the Rockets secured another excellent center when they traded for Alperen Sengun on draft day. However, Sengun’s emergence threw a wrench into the Rockets’ plans and created the “I hate Daniel Theis” fan club as a result.
With Sengun clearly in need of minutes, suddenly the Rockets had three men fighting over two spots. Since Rafael Stone and Stephen Silas aren’t the Joker, they can’t just break a pool cue into two and solve the problem via tryout by combat.
The Rockets are in a position where all three need to play, and they all need to play by themselves. One of the primary drivers for Alperen Sengun’s lack of minutes has been Stephen Silas’ reluctance to play him with another big.
The solution is simple. Rafael Stone must trade Daniel Theis as soon as he is eligible to be traded on December 15th. The move gets the best out of the Rockets’ current roster, it gives Wood a chance to consistently thrive with the starting unit, and most crucially it should lead to more minutes for Sengun.
Daniel Theis needing to be traded is as much a shortcoming of his basketball talent as it is a shortcoming of the talent around him. Theis, like shoes ordered online, looked good on the computer screen, but the fit was always a little off.
Plus/minus isn’t a perfect stat, but it often points us in the right direction. What plus/minus is telling us about the Rockets is that minus Daniel Theis is a plus.