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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The Rockets’ league-worst transition is a choice

All told, the Rockets’ league-worst transition offense and defense is costing them dearly. Per game, the Rockets are outscored 27.3 to 15.1 in transition alone, good for a -12.2 point margin. For a team that is outscored by 7.35 points per game, it’s not hard to see the glaring area where they’re losing games.

Coaches will tell you that fixing transition defense is all about effort, but that’s not always true, and I don’t know if it applies to these Rockets. With their proclivity to crash the offensive glass and turn it over, the Rockets are always going to allow more transition opportunities than average. However, cranking up their transition offense should be as easy as saying, “Hey, let’s push it.” 

Even with the league’s worst transition efficiency, the Rockets boosting their transition volume will improve their overall offense. These are the Rockets’ points per possession in some non-transition playtypes: pick and roll ball handler (0.77), isolations (0.99), post ups (0.88), and hand offs (0.94). These plays account for 37.1% of the Rockets’ possessions and are all worse or just as bad options as 0.99 points per possession in transition. 

The Rockets are fighting a losing battle. It’s a small miracle that they aren’t the worst team in the league while simultaneously owning the worst transition defense and offense. Any marginal improvements on either end could see them improve significantly in offensive and defensive rating. 

The personnel to be a fun up-tempo offense is there. Youth may lead to turnovers, poor rotations, and all sorts of basketball blunders, but it does come with speed, energy, and recovery. For years I’ve heard that youth is wasted on the young. It should be youth is wasted on the Rockets. 

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Simply put, the Rockets’ transition problems are inexcusable. The only explanations are it’s a deliberate tactic to tank, they want to focus heavily on developing their players’ half-court abilities, or the coaching is a mess. I can’t speculate which one is the culprit, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Rockets are the worst transition team in the NBA, and they shouldn’t be.