The Houston Rockets were doing what no team outside of the Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals had ever dared to do. They are playing 48 minutes of small ball, from the opening tip through the game’s final whistle. And it doesn’t seem that the style is going anywhere.
Mike D’Antoni’s squad traded Clint Capela to Atlanta and brought in Robert Covington to finish off their starting lineup of five smaller guys. He was actually averaging nearly three blocks per game at the center spot, with rim-protection efficiency only seen in NBA 2K.
The Ninth Man
As things slowly start to normalize within the NBA, we’re able to be a little more hypothetical about scenarios surrounding the teams. And for the Rockets, it’s all about the rotation. Mike D’Antoni has said that he hopes to use a nine-man rotation when they resume play.
And it won’t be a tremendous surprise as to who likely takes the minutes after Austin Rivers, Ben McLemore, and Danuel House. Though there would be a mini-competition for said minutes. The most likely candidate will be Jeff Green, with DeMarre Carroll and Bruno Caboclo trailing behind.
Green has bounced around from team to team, but always brings scoring and defensive energy when the team needs it. The decision by the Jazz to waive him was surprising, and Houston was there to scoop him up. And whether it is him or Carroll, they’ll have a vet out there.
The way that Houston wins games is simply outscoring their opponent, as all teams do to secure victories. But what happens between the lines is what makes all the difference. And for these guys, it is pushing the ball whenever they can to maximize the total number of possessions.
They do not have a tremendous half-court set because generally, Russ or Harden stall at the top of the key and make a move when the clock winds down. Ball movement and 2-on-1 breaks are going to be the key for them to do much of their scoring.
Mike D’Antoni is famous for his ‘7 seconds or less’ offense from his Suns days, and perhaps we can see something similar here. With stars like Russell Westbrook and James Harden leading the way, this is certainly feasible. Both of them have extreme quickness and can get to the rim with relative ease against most defenders.
It’s also worthy to note that without a center, the lane will always be open. Just don’t expect them to grab too many offensive rebounds due to not having said big there.
What to Expect from the Bench
Houston’s bench will play a big part in their title hopes at the end of the day. They’ll need stellar defensive energy from Austin Rivers and Danuel House. They will also need 3-pt shots to fall because of how many they take each game.
Ben McLemore will be critical to their success with his ability to get hot from beyond the arc. If they aren’t getting scoring from the reserves, it’ll be a hard task for them to win.
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