Rockets: Biggest questions for Houston at the All-Star break
At this year’s February trade deadline, the Houston Rockets traded away their only rim protector in Clint Capela and brought in an elite 3-and-D wing in Robert Covington. Just recently, they signed veterans Jeff Green and Demarre Carroll to bolster their wing depth ahead of the postseason.
With these moves, the Rockets have made it clear that they are going all in on small-ball. Devoid of a legitimate rim protector and rocking rotation players not taller than 6-foot-8 (assuming, of course, that Uncle Jeff is in it), Houston is gambling on the most extreme form of small-ball as a formula to win it all.
The obvious questions for the Rockets are: Will this work? Is this sustainable?
So far, the experiment has shown mixed results. They are 2-2 with P.J. Tucker as their starting center. One of the losses was a blow out against the Phoenix Suns, while the other was a close call against the Utah Jazz.
The two victories, however, were impressive: scrappy wins over the best team in the West, the Los Angeles Lakers, and a strong Eastern Conference contender in the Boston Celtics.
Another concern that arises from Houston’s deep affection with small-ball is their rebounding.
In both losses, Houston was out-rebounded by Phoenix and Utah by double digits each. In the two wins, the Lakers and Celtics out-rebounded them by just a total of four boards combined.
Of course, factors to consider with these rebounding stats are their ability to make shots and force their opponents to tougher looks.
Obviously, offense is going to be their bread and butter. They are going to shoot threes at an unprecedented rate. They are going to move the ball and rely on the elite penetration of Russell Westbrook and James Harden to suck in the defense and generate open looks for their shooters.
Likewise, it’s no secret that Houston intends to outrun their opponents at every opportunity they can. But if they want to run, they need to make stops on the defensive end first.
In order to make a successful stop, they must secure the boards. Without a big body down low, it will need to be a team effort from everyone, scrapping, clawing, and boxing out their heftier opponents.
Is their defense going to hold up? How are they going to fare against teams with elite big offensive men such as the Lakers, the Jazz, or even the Denver Nuggets?
Houston’s moves at the deadline has turned in mixed reactions. Others think there is no way Houston can win this way, while others love that they are fully embracing their identity and their philosophy.
Whatever happens at the end of the season, whether the Rockets raise the Larry O’Brien trophy or bow out of the playoffs once again in disappointment, you have to, at the very least, respect them for trying.
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