Hornets @ Rockets

Published: January 2, 2013

The best two young shooting guards in the league collide.  A foul is called on Jason Smith over on the bench.

I wanted to say Houston is ahead of the curve with its rebuilding project and acquisition of young talent, but then I remembered the Rockets were about a .500 team last year – and they are about a .500 team this year.  So I’ll refrain from overstating the case.  Their team is currently littered with a bunch of solid young players on reasonable contracts and James Harden, who is great and on a reasonable contract for his production.

Harden vs Gordon is the most fascinating matchup.  Both are strong, bulldog shooting guards who can bury the three and get to the line all the time.  Both are ball dominant, but capable of passing.  Harden is a better rebounder, shooter, and more adept at drawing fouls.  Gordon has better defensive chops.  You won’t find a better shooting guard under the age of 28 than either of these two guys, and considering the Divisional ties, this could be a fun matchup to watch for years.

Still, despite the focus on those two players, this is a team game, and the Rockets do some things very well, and some things very badly.  In fact, out of the four factors which that I focus on to write these previews, the Rockets are either very good, or very bad.

Offensively, the Rockets are great shooters(6th in the league) who get to the line freely, drawing the third highest number of free throws around.  They also turn the ball over at the highest rate in the league and rebound barely a quarter(23rd rank) of their missed shots.

Defensively, they boast the second highest defensive rebound rate in the league and allow the lowest number of free throws around.  No freebies, no putbacks.  Conversely, and probably the reason for the low free throw rate, they let you take whatever shot you want, allowing the 4th worst eFG% in the league and force very few turnovers.

In essence, they play sloppy, undisciplined ball en route to being the fastest-paced team in the league, all the while daring you to try and outscore them.

Keys to the Game

  • Please, please, please, please, please . . . please! guard the three point line against this team.  They only shoot the three a little above the league average, but only one team puts up more shots from deep than the Rockets.  The Hornets allow teams to shoot well over their averages from long range.  This could turn into a disaster if the Hornets don’t make an effort to get out on the perimeter.
  • Send periodic traps at Lin and Harden.  Both of those guys will turn the ball over frequently if put into trouble.  The Hornets don’t have superior on-the-ball defenders, so take advantage instead by springing aggressive traps on them with our agile bigs.
  • Don’t use Asik’s man to set the screen on the pick and roll.  Asik is aggressive and a master at defending the pick and roll, with amazing numbers when guarding either the ball-handler or the roll man.  Use the other big and keep the Rockets from utilizing Asik’s best skill.

Enjoy the Game!


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