Daily Rockets Science: A Study on Players Not Named Harden
Watching the Rockets at times is like watching the Harden show, but the team boasts several quality players without such storied facial hair.
The Houston Rockets, so far this season, pretty much just play on offense. Whether they’ve said it or not, their scheme is to simply outscore their opponents. It’s worked more often than not this year, too, so the team is starting to get some credit from pundits. One power ranking this past week even had the team ranked as high as fourth best in the league.
The Rocket who’s gotten the most praise is James Harden, and for good reason. The Beard is having one of the best individual seasons in league history. He deserves every bit of credit he’s given. However, there are other players on Houston’s roster that are playing well, and they aren’t getting a whole lot of recognition. Today’s Daily Rockets Science is dedicated to a few of those guys, the beardless ones who do the dirty work without much time in the spotlight.
I don’t know who will win Sixth Man of the Year this season, but my money’s on Eric Gordon. He’s performing beautifully in his new role of coming off the bench. Michael Pena of ReamGM.com writes on how the Rockets are utilizing Gordon as a Diet Harden. It seems like a silly notion, but it’s hard to argue with his 16 points per game and 53% effective field goal percentage.
He’s also unpredictable in the way professional scorers have to be. Sometimes Gordon will fake like he’s about to run off a stagger screen only to drive away from the pick and summon uncomfortable help rotations towards the baseline. Or turn the corner, plow towards the restricted area and then spray the ball out to a three-point shooter.
Patrick Beverley is known for his gritty defense, but statistics show he’s helping the Rockets in more ways than one. According to Bleacher Report’s Maurice Bobb, his offensive play is what’s most important to Houston this year. James Harden is all that’s necessary to run a good offense, but having a 43% three point shooter in Beverley on the court sure doesn’t hurt.
With Beverly in the starting lineup, Houston has gone from scoring 115 points per 100 possessions to 131. When he’s running the point for the second unit, scoring has gone up from 103 points per 100 possessions to 118. And with Harden dominating the ball, his three-point shooting percentage has improved from 40 percent last season to 43.8 percent this year.
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The fact that Sam Dekker is getting substantial court time this season speaks volumes about the youngster’s play. After missing all but six minutes of his rookie year, the second-year forward is quickly making up for lost time. Ian Levy of FanSided claims that Dekker’s play is everything the Rockets could have asked for.
Per 36 minutes, Dekker is averaging 11.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 steals. The most impressive part has been his efficiency — 50.0 percent from the field, 40.0 percent on 5.1 3-point attempts per 36 minutes, a turnover rate of just 11.3 percent. Dekker is an extremely low-usage player but he’s moving the ball on offense, running his defender ragged with cuts in the halfcourt, and hitting open jumpers.
I hope today’s Daily Rockets Science has provided a bit of clarity with the Rockets’ roster. Harden is deserving of MVP and is the best offensive player in the game. However, he isn’t the end-all-be-all in Houston. The rest of the squad deserves some of the limelight too. Tonight, Harden and the rest of the gang take on the Golden State Warriors. Both teams feature top five offenses in the league, so it should be an exciting game to watch.
If the Houston Rockets can survive the Warriors, they’ll continue to regain relevance. However, they’ll need to be locked in and ready if that’s going to happen. Hopefully, they (everyone, not just Harden) will be firing on all cylinders.