It’s not time to panic in Houston, but it could be shortly.
The Houston Rockets have limped out to a 4-7 start behind an atrocious defense and a lackadaisical offense. With a -7.7 point differential through 11 games, the Rockets have the second worst plus-minus in the Western Conference.
Despite currently sitting third in the NBA in scoring at 27.3 points per game, James Harden has looked like a shell of last season’s MVP runner-up. Shooting a career-low 37.2 percent from the field, Harden has struggled to get into the flow of things.
The offseason acquisition of Ty Lawson was supposed to help give Houston a more free-flowing offense, but that simply hasn’t been the case. Lawson is only averaging 8.9 points and 5.6 assists per game while shooting 33.3 percent from the field. Clearly having a difficult time getting acclimated to Houston’s offense, much of the Rockets’ success will depend on Lawson’s ability to play better.
The Ty Lawson experiment was intended to make an elite offense even better, as Daryl Morey and management knew the drop in defensive prowess would come as a consequence. Lawson and Harden combine to form the worst defensive backcourt in the league, and it’s not even close.
Currently allowing 108.5 points per game (29th in the league), the only two players appearing to try on defense are Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard. Effort from two of the five players on the court hasn’t been enough, as Houston has allowed their opponent to score 100+ points in all 11 games.
Howard has actually been the lone bright spot for the Rockets, as the (usually) disgruntled big man is averaging 15.0 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, while shooting a career-high 62.9 percent from the field. With his nagging back injury seeming to be less of an issue this season, Howard looks to be in his Defensive Player of the Year-type form.
Even with the early season obstacles (aside from Howard), anyone would be quick to tell you that it is a long regular season. The Rockets still bolster one of the deepest rosters in the league, and the backcourt of Lawson and Harden needs some time to mesh. But if Houston’s two playmakers continue to shoot under 40 percent while on the floor with one another, head coach Kevin McHale and general manager Daryl Morey will need to make some changes.
There’s plenty of time for the Rockets to live up to their preseason hype as legitimate title contenders, but there’s no denying that doubt is beginning to creep in.
Photo Credit: Fansided