Through two games, the Houston Rockets offense has shown real improvement from the season prior. They’ve cut their turnover rate by a full 2%, a massive margin considering the gap between first and 30th in the metric was 3.7% last season, and seen their offensive rebounding rate skyrocket from 21.7% to 29.5%. Even though their shooting efficiency has fallen behind last season’s pace, they’ve still managed to improve their offensive rating from 108.4 to 111.1.
The Rockets’ attack has shifted
The shape of the Rockets’ attack has changed substantially. Last season, a key part of their offense came from generating free throws (4.24 FGA per FTA per game) and bombing threes (38.7 3PA per game). This season, they’re getting to the line less frequently (3.53 FGA per FTA) and shooting far fewer threes (35 3PA).
They’re also getting to within 10 feet of the rim with more frequency and have seen their percentage of mid-range jumpers and long-twos increase. While shot map truthers would argue this uptick in inefficient shots is bad news, there are offensive benefits outside of shooting percentage in getting closer to the rim.
All told, the Rockets' offense appears to be heading in a promising direction. However, there’s one key area where the Rockets have slid backward, they're cutting corners.
The corner three is the key to cheap offense
Basketball isn’t a perfectly designed game, and nothing epitomizes this more than the corner three. The shot is worth three points but is only 22 feet from the basket, while an above-the-break three is 23.75 feet away. The closer a shot is to the basket, the more often it goes in.
Last season, NBA teams shot 38.3% on corner threes compared to 34.35% on above-the-break threes, and the same trend has continued into this season. Unfortunately, the Rockets’ offense doesn’t seem intent on taking advantage of the flaws of court design.
The Rockets are avoiding the corners like the plague
The Rockets have attempted 70 3-pointers this season. A grand total of six have come from the corners, and they only took one against the Memphis Grizzlies. At 7.1%, they’ve attempted the fewest percentage of their threes from the corner. Last season, they also paced the league in avoiding the corners, but at least it came in at 17.3%.
It’s early, but the Rockets are establishing a habit of forgoing easy efficiency. It’s unclear if it’s a shift in offensive philosophy by Stephen Silas, an issue of personnel, player ability, or some combination of the three.
Regardless of the culprit, the Rockets should focus on trying to get a few more looks from the corners. They’re hitting a league-average rate of their threes from the least analytically friendly shot diet. With a few more shots from the corners, the Rockets’ offense could really start to hum.