Should We Be Impressed by the Houston Rockets?
Thanks to Netflix, my fiancée's been on a giant Pretty Little Liars binge over the last month or so. Needless to say, I've seen quite a few episodes myself.
In case you've never caught one yourself, basically four high school girls attempt to figure out an ongoing mystery involving their thought-to-be-dead friend. While they attempt to do so, there's a constant struggle between them to tell each other the truth. They almost always fail to do so, placing a rift between one another and making their issue even more difficult to resolve.
As odd as it may sound, this reminds me of the Houston Rockets.
For a few years -- ever since they obtained James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder -- we've been waiting for the Rockets to turn the corner and become a contender out West. We've been waiting for them to prove what they truly are, not just putting on the façade of a really good team.
Due to a shift away from Dwight Howard to head coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced, floor-spacing system, things seem a little different this time around. With Harden at point guard, the offense seems to be even more dangerous.
However, the questions still revolve around their defensive efforts.
According to NBA.com, the Rockets are 20th in defensive rating, allowing 105.2 points per 100 possessions on the season. They're also among the bottom ten teams in effective field goal percentage (51.1%) and defensive rebounding per game (33.0).
But, in a run of seven consecutive wins, it appears that they've improved.
|Last 7||DRtg||eFG%||D Reb%|
They've improved by nearly six points in defensive efficiency with the help of upticks in defensive rebounding and shot-altering efforts. Other than that, what's changed all of the sudden?
The Beverley Effect
After a brief acclimation period in which he averaged just under 25 minutes a game, Patrick Beverley saw his playing time increase to his usual 30-plus minute average. Then, he ran into a game against the Utah Jazz where he played fewer than 22 minutes.
Since then, he's played no fewer than 28 minutes and no more than 32 minutes, which looks to be the happy medium for the exuberant 6'1" guard. As I mentioned, the Rockets are 7-0 in their last seven games, and they haven't lost since December 1st.
Is it Beverley?
|Beverley||O Rtg||D Rtg||Net Rtg|
At a glance, it's clear that the Rockets have been better with Beverley on the court than they've been without him. In fact, according to Basketball Reference, his net rating of 14.4 is the best on the team. It's 6.2 higher than even Harden's.
His outstanding two-way play and efficiency are also the reason Beverley's a part of one of the best lineups in the NBA. But, is it all about him?
Preying on the Weak
During their streak, Houston's schedule has been rather generous. Only three of the seven teams have a record over .500, and only one -- the Golden State Warriors -- have a better record than the Rockets themselves. According to our power rankings, they've faced four of the seven worst teams in the Association.
In the streak, the Rockets have won by five points or fewer on four separate occasions. Most notably, they won by a mere four points over the Brooklyn Nets Monday night -- a feat no one should be too proud of.
In conclusion, I think it's safe to say that it's not one reason over the other. The combination of Beverley's play and a weak opposition have put the Rockets on the path to their current record of 18-7.
As far as whether they're for real or not as a player in the NBA's Western Conference, we'll have to wait and see if their play holds up against stiffer competition. It might be another week or so, but it's only a matter of time before the Rockets reveal their real selves to us.
Until then, the mystery goes on.