By The Numbers

A statistical glimpse at the Rockets' dominant preseason performance
by Jason Friedman Writer/Reporter

HOUSTON - If you watched the vast majority of the Rockets’ preseason games this month then you likely don’t need much in the way of statistical backing to lend credence to the notion that this team looked remarkably impressive a significant percentage of the time – a working set of eyes and a quick perusal of the results can probably do plenty of the heavy lifting for you in that regard. Houston’s 6-1 record was nice; its league-leading +10.4 point differential nicer still. And from an individual standpoint, it would be virtually impossible to quibble with any of the performances turned in by the various members of the Rockets’ expected rotation.

What a deeper dive into the numbers might be able to provide, however, is a bit more insight into some of the keys behind the Rockets’ preseason success and what those early trends might tell us about the ways in which they will attempt to build upon that prosperity now that the real thing is almost upon us.

Here, then, is but a glimpse at some of the statistical goodies from Houston’s exhibition schedule. All the usual caveats apply – preseason sample sizes are painfully small and frequently filled with enough random noise to drown out a sea of Red Rowdies – so take them with the largest serving of salt available. They are to be seen as nothing more than early signs of positive progress along the long and winding road upon which the Rockets and the rest of the NBA have taken only the smallest of steps to date.

- When training camp began, the basketball world wanted to know if the James Harden-Dwight Howard combination could mesh on the court as perfectly as it seemed to on paper. So far, so good. During 150 minutes of shared floor time this month, Houston’s dynamic duo racked up an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 111.1 and a defensive rating of 96.4. For perspective, each of those figures would have led the league in their respective categories a season ago.

- During those 150 minutes when Harden and Howard were both on the floor, Houston outscored its opposition by 44 points.

- 129 of Chandler Parsons’ 149 preseason minutes came alongside Howard and Harden. That trio produced an offensive rating of 111.1 and a defensive mark of 94.3 during that time.

- Earlier this summer, I’d written about Dwight Howard’s devastating impact when playing with a spacing four-man and a playmaking wing (for his nine-year career Howard has produced an offensive rating of 109.0 and a defensive mark of 100.8 in such situations). That trend manifested itself plenty this preseason. In the 45 minutes Howard logged while surrounded by shooters (a grouping that included some combination of Harden, Parsons, Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Omri Casspi and Francisco Garcia), Houston produced a prolific 124.4 offensive rating and a miniscule defensive rating of 90.3.

- As for Houston’s supersized lineup featuring a frontcourt pairing of Howard and Omer Asik, the already small sample sizes get tinier still due to the time Asik missed with a calf injury. But just for fun, let’s see how Houston did when it played with its two Defensive Player of the Year caliber bigs alongside its arguably best perimeter defender in Patrick Beverley (Again, I can’t ring the “SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT!” bell loudly enough in this instance since that trio only logged 26 total minutes of floor time together, the vast majority of which came during the Rockets’ destruction of Memphis last Friday night.):

- Rockets' preseason offensive/defensive rating when Howard, Asik and Beverley shared the floor: 115.4 OER and 67.3 DER in 26 minutes

- Opponent FG% with Howard, Asik and Beverley on the floor together: 29 FG%

- Opponents were just 3-for-11 at the rim when those three players shared the floor this month for Houston

- Lastly, yet another Houston combination that stood out for its preseason productivity was its backcourt pairing of Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley. Houston’s top two point guards logged 57 minutes together this month and, somewhat surprisingly, it’s the results on the defensive end that really stand out. Houston recorded a microscopic defensive rating of 81.4 while producing an offensive mark of 94.8 when Lin and Beverley played simultaneously. 

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