All-Star Weekend is officially upon us and the true second half of the 2013-14 NBA regular season will soon commence. Thus, the contenders will emerge and the pretenders will be exposed for the world to evaluate under the largest magnifying lens possible.
The question is, where must the Houston Rockets improve after the All-Star Break?
Heading into All-Star Weekend, the Rockets are in third-place in the Western Conference. Houston is 36-17 overall, 22-7 at home and 14-10 on the road.
In order to make a push for the NBA championship, however, Houston must do the same thing as every other team: improve upon their weaknesses. In order to do so, those flaws must first be identified.
Here’s what they are.
Dependency on Isolation Basketball
If there’s one reason to be concerned with how well the Rockets’ vaunted offense will perform come the postseason, it’s their dependency on isolation basketball. Not only can this lead to an inefficient brand of offense, but it plays poorly once the game slows down in the playoffs.
Houston needs to start moving the basketball if it wants to win the NBA championship.
Houston is currently 25th with just 20.4 team assists per game. As weak of a number as that may be, it isn’t reflective of the true issue with the Rockets’ offense.
As strong as the offense may be at this moment, Houston will run into trouble in the playoffs because of isolation basketball.
Houston is currently 27th in the NBA with just 54.5 percent of their total field goals being assisted. Houston may mask those weaknesses with consistent offensive production, but the primary reason behind that success is a ranking of No. 7 in number of possessions per 48 minutes.
Once the games slow down in the playoffs, Houston will need to move the basketball to overcome the Western Conference’s elite half court defenses.
Too Dependent on the 3
The official definition of insanity is doing something over-and-over again and expecting a different result. With this in mind, it’s fair to label head coach Kevin McHale as insane when it comes to his team’s mind-boggling reliance upon the three-point shot.
Houston leads all teams with an average of 25.8 three-point field goal attempts per game. The issue is, the Rockers rank just 20th in three-point field goal percentage.
That’s more concerning than you may think.
When it comes to the points that the Rockets score per game, they’re the seventh most dependent team upon the three-point shot, per NBA.com. 25.7 percent of their points come from the three-ball—a shot that they’re far from efficient with.
With an isolation mentality and a heavy reliance upon shots from distance, the Rockets are in danger of a postseason letdown.
When a team has Dwight Howard starting at center and Omer Asik on the bench, it’s easy to assume that said unit will be elite in protecting the rim. Unfortunately for the Houston Rockets, that just hasn’t been the case during the 2013-14 regular season.
If Houston wants to make a serious run at the title, it needs to improve down low.
According to NBA.com, Houston is currently 23rd in points allowed in the paint per game. That’s a very poor number that isn’t necessarily a result of the up-tempo offense that the Rockets employ, but instead lackluster defense.
Just don’t be so quick to blame Howard.
Per NBA.com, D-12 faces 9.2 field goal attempts at the rim per game. Despite facing such an extreme number of shots on high-percentage looks, Howard is holding opponents to 47.4 percent shooting.
Other players on the roster are solid, but the driving force for the second unit is Asik. You know, the guy who has played a grand total of 32 minutes since December 2, 2013.
Whether he’s traded or sees in an influx in playing time, something needs to happen with the embattled Turkish import.
The bottom line is, Houston has three critical areas of weakness that could sink Kevin McHale’s crew come the playoffs. Each weakness is fixable, and as the trade deadline nears, Daryl Morey must consider making a trade to improve in the previously alluded to areas.
If the Rockets don’t improve, their championship aspirations will be met with crushing disappointment.