The Rockets' biggest weakness this season is inexcusable

N.B. Lindberg
Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets / Alex Bierens de Haan/GettyImages
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A quick peek at the standings tells you everything you need to know about how the Houston Rockets season is going. They’re 3-14, last in the Western Conference, and a half-game from being tied for the worst record in the league. 

While the Rockets’ record is abysmal, it’s unlikely they’ll continue to challenge for the worst record in the league for long. Their net rating, a better predictor of future performance than record, is only the third worst in the Association, and there is some pretty significant day-light between them and the Pistons and Spurs in 29th and 30th. 

The Rockets really aren’t the worst team in the league

The Rockets’ net rating of -7.4 is ugly, but it’s also the prettiest hog at the country fair. The Pistons’ net rating is -9.1, and they might be losing Cade Cunningham for the season, and the Spurs’ net rating is -10.1, and they have multiple veterans who will likely find new homes as the trade market starts to heat up. The Rockets are bad, but they’re not close to being the worst in the league bad, even if their record tells a different story. 

There’s a good chance that the Rockets pull out of the league cellar simply because the Pistons and Spurs are unmitigated basketball disasters, but that’s not the only reason the Rockets should improve. The easiest way to drag yourself out of the bottom is to improve on your greatest weakness, and the Rockets’ biggest weakness–transition–is a choice. 

The Houston Rockets are lost in transition 

Transition is the golden goose of basketball. The only playtypes, as categorized by NBA.com, that routinely beat it in points per possession are cuts and pick-and-roll roll man possessions. However, those possessions are far harder to come by, which makes transition the most efficient high volume form of offense. For instance, the Trail Blazers are dead last in transition points per possession at 0.98. That mark would be the third best points per possession in pick and roll ball handler possessions. 

If you want to boost offensive efficiency, simply getting out in transition will do, even if you’re really bad at it. The inverse is true on defense. Because transition possessions are so efficient, the key isn’t to be great at defending them. The key is to never let them happen in the first place. 

As an incredibly young and athletic team, the Rockets are the perfect candidate to get out in transition and play an end-to-end brand of basketball. Yet, the Rockets are the worst transition team in just about every single metric. 

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