The Houston Rockets Record Breaking Offense

The Houston Rockets have taken the NBA by surprise this year. They currently sit at the 3rd spot in the Western Conference standings and have the 4th best record in the league. Before the season began the Rockets seemed to be in a displeasing situation. First, they finished last season with a disappointing first round exit from the playoffs. Then, in the offseason, Dwight Howard declined his player option and decided to become a unrestricted free agent. With Howard leaving, the Rockets were left with a lone superstar in James Harden. In the modern NBA, it seems you need at least two if not three superstars on your team to compete. For example, the Warriors and Spurs have six players on their rosters that were named all-stars at some point in their career.  After losing Howard, the Rockets were left with one.

Howard deciding to walk away from the team wasn’t the only thing that changed this past offseason. The Rockets also decided to hire long time coach, Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni is best known for his success with the Phoenix Suns from 2003-2006. He coached a Steve Nash led team to the playoffs four straight years. However, it is hard to forget about his struggles since then. Since his time in Phoenix, he has coached six more seasons in the league, four with the New York Knicks and two with the Los Angeles Lakers. D’Antoni’s combined record in that time was 188-254. He did not lack talent on these teams considering he coached: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and Amare Stoudemire. When it was announced that Mike D’Antoni would be head coach of the Rockets many experts questioned the decision.

Anyone that questioned the hiring of Mike D’Antoni now looks like a fool. He has proven to be a perfect fit with the Rockets. The Rockets are a team filled with three point snipers and a few rebounding specialists. D’Antoni uses his offensive expertise to maximize his player’s skills, therefore; the Rockets shoot an unreal amount of three pointers. Currently, the Rockets lead the league in three point attempts with 2,462 which is 468 more than any other team (Boston Celtics with 1994). With 2,462 attempts the 2016-2017 Rockets are 4th all time in three point attempts as a team and they are only 218 attempts away from breaking the record. A shot chart from their game on February 23 against the Pelicans shows that they should shatter this record.

The Rockets offense is a work of art that can only be described after watching them play. They’re playing style is unmatched across the league. Not only are they shooting an outlandish amount of three pointers but they design their offense around getting three point looks. The majority of the NBA designs plays to get wide open looks at the basket but the Rockets are looking to get a set three every time down the court. They lead the league in three point attempts but they are last in the league in two point attempts. At first look, these stats are alarming but obviously D’Antoni and the Rockets are on to something with this style of play. Some examples of their unique playing style:

The key part of these highlights and the Rockets’ success this year is James Harden. With the help of D’Antoni, Harden has become a completely different player. Harden is averaging 28.8 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game, and a league leading 11.3 assists per game. Previous to this season, his career high in assists per game was only 7.5. D’Antoni and the Rockets run their offense through Harden the entire time he is on the court. It seems like Harden has the ball for at least 12 seconds of every 24 second shot clock. Throughout his career he has thrived at attacking the basket but this season he has added the ability to pass out mid-drive. His unbelievable skill set forces defenses to collapse on his drives which opens up the shooters on the perimeter. Harden’s remarkable year has put him in the middle of the MVP debates and is even considered the favorite by some. While the Rockets’ may not win the championship this year, they are a team with a bright future that you do not want to meet in a seven game series.

Stats via Basketball Reference

Picture via Derral Chen

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