NBA.com's John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Houston Rockets, who didn't defend the perimeter as well as they did the season prior.
Houston Rockets opponents shot 36.1 percent from 3-point range last season, up from 32.2 percent the year before. That was the league's biggest increase in opponent 3-point percentage.
The Rockets didn't defend the paint as well as they did in 2014-15, they put their opponents on the free throw line more often, and they were the worst defensive rebounding team in the league.
But the Rockets' defense has yielded the fifth most 3-point attempts over the last two seasons. So their opponents' 3-point percentage was the biggest factor in them allowing 5.2 more points per 100 possessions than they did in '14-15. They dropped from sixth to 21st in defensive efficiency, and only two other teams took a bigger step backward on that end of the floor.
There's a randomness component to opponent 3-point percentage and, according to SportVU, the biggest difference in the Rockets' 3-point defense was how well their opponents shot on uncontested threes (from a league-low 33.1 percent in '14-15 to 38.1 percent in '15-16). They could change nothing this season and maybe see that number go back down.
The major changes the Rockets made this summer – hiring Mike D'Antoni and signing Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon – are more likely to give their offense a boost. Anderson is a perfect fit for D'Antoni's offense and a perfect complement to the playmaking of James Harden.
But Anderson has long been a liability on the other end of the floor. The only time D'Antoni has coached a defense that ranked better than 13th is the season (2011-12) in New York in which he got fired.
It's defensive regression that took the Rockets from the 2 seed to the 8 seed last year. They should be plenty potent offensively, but their ability to get stops will, ultimately, determine how good they are this season.
10 MORE ROCKETS NOTES
- Led the league for the third straight season in percentage of shots that came from the restricted area (36.1 percent, third in the league) or 3-point range (37.0 percent, first), 73.1 percent of their total shots.
- Took 19.2 percent of their shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock, the second highest rate in the league (behind Phoenix), according to SportVU. Their 2.9 passes per possession ranked 26th.
- Trevor Ariza and James Harden played 2,602 minutes together, more than any other combination in the league.
- Ariza led the league in corner 3-pointers for the third straight season. His 89 corner threes were 21 more than any other player and the most in the last 7 seasons (since Ray Allen's 90 in 2008-09). He took a lot more from the right corner (57-for-148, 38.5%), but actually shot them better from the left corner (32-for-63, 50.8%). Harden assisted Ariza on 40 of those 89 corner threes and led the league with 106 total assists on corner threes.
- According to Synergy, Harden led the league with 566 isolation possessions last season, 173 more than any other player.
- Outscored their opponents by 6.9 points per 100 possessions in 681 minutes with Dwight Howard on the floor with either Clint Capela or Donatas Motiejunas, but were outscored by 2.6 in 1,599 minutes when Howard was on the floor without either of them. (Capela and Motiejunas played just 90 minutes together all season.)
- Ryan Anderson had an effective field goal percentage of 55.0 percent at home and 44.4 percent on the road last season. That was the second biggest home-road difference in eFG% among players with at least 200 FGA both at home and on the road.
- The Rockets were outscored by 2.2 points per 100 possessions before the All-Star break and outscored their opponents by 4.1 points per 100 possessions after the break. That NetRtg improvement of 6.3 points per 100 possessions was the biggest in the league.
- But they also had the biggest NetRtg regression (-20.8 points per 100 possessions) from regular season to playoffs, getting outscored by 20.9 in their five-game, first round series loss to Golden State.
- Ariza shot 4-for-28 (14.3 percent) from 3-point range in the playoffs, the worst mark among players with at least 25 attempts.
NBA TV's Rockets preview premieres at 6:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 8.
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