Houston Rockets: SCS Round Table: Regular Season Part 1

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets

Space City Scoop writing team offer our annual Houston Rockets Round Table sessions. Next up the Regular Season, part 1.

Next up the SCS team dives deeper into the Houston Rockets with the staff predicting how the regular season will play out.

This segment of the round table focuses on the regular season which is broken into 4 sections.  Part 1 focuses on the coaching staff. How much will the addition of Jeff Bzdelik help the defense. With the offense pumping on all cylinders what rotations will Mike D’Antoni utilize. Specifically how does the center position break down. And, will the  shackles finally be removed from K.J. McDaniels?

We invite you to peruse our input and offer your own opinions in the comments section at the end of the post.

Contributing to the series are Space City Scoop writers:

  • Andre Cantalogo @dededeco
  • Ben Casey @benlikesbball
  • Coty Davis @Mr_Thriller83
  • Jason Gomez @jasongomez28
  • Tamberlyn Richardson @TTOTambz

November 30, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik during the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena. The Grizzlies defeated the Kings 97-85. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Q1: Jeff Bzdelik is tasked with improving the Rockets defense where they ranked 21st in 2015-16. What specific areas should he focus on and where do you see the Rockets ranking defensively this season?

Andre: Three-point defense. The Rockets went from 1st to 21st in this area. The three-point shot’s become the premiere weapon for almost every single team in the league. If the team can focus and improve in this area they’ll be ok. That being said it’s so hard to predict Rockets defense this year, specially with the team focusing so much on offense… if Houston ranks between the 10th and 15th place it’ll be great but I don’t see that happening.

Ben: It’s both comforting and unsettling that the biggest issue with Houston’s defense last year was simply effort. If the team would have tried on that end of the floor, they could have finished around the middle of the pack. Bzdelik can come in with all sorts of schemes and defensive sets, but his biggest and potentially most difficult task will be breaking the team out of the rut they found themselves in last year. If/when he gets the team excited about defense, he can then start drilling his schemes more intensely. If all goes well on both of those fronts, the team could finish around 13th or so. If not, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to see them in the bottom five. I’d put a bet on 18th-20th.

Coty: I think Bzdelik should focus on improving Houston’s perimeter defense. Last season, the  Rockets ranked 21st in the league in opponents three-point percentages (36.1 percent). If Bzdelik could improve this area of the Rockets defense, Houston may rank in the top 15.

Jason: Turnovers and not getting back on defense. I see the rockets d as a work in progress but maybe top 15 finish

Tamberlyn: I’m with Jason on this one, turnovers are a key problem and if Harden wants to be taken seriously as an MVP candidate he’ll need to take care of the ball As far as overall defense the core members of this squad were a top 10 team 2 seasons ago with Howard out injured for most of it. At the time they were the best perimeter defenders. Bzdelik will need to pick one area either paint or perimeter and master that first in my opinion.

Q2:Obviously Mike D’Antoni has the Rockets functioning on all offensive cylinders. In the revamped offense how many points per game will the team average and where will they rank in the Association?

 

Ben: I am perhaps a bit overconfident in the Rockets’ offense this year. But with James Harden at point guard with more options on the kick out, I see Houston scoring around 120 on a nightly basis. If things go as they should, the only team that could boast a more powerful offense is Golden State’s super-powered machine. Granted, Houston could easily give up around 115 regularly, but nobody is doubting that they’ll score a lot.

Coty: Behind the Warriors, I think Houston could be the second highest scoring team in the league. If D’Antoni can recreate his Phoenix Suns offense, expect the Rockets to score at least 110 points per game.

Jason: I say the team ranks just behind GSW as the top scoring offense in the league with an average of 113 ppg

Andre:Top three at least. The Rockets ranked 4th last year. They won’t drop. I predict the team being 1st or trailing only the Warriors on points per game. This Rockets team has the ability to score north of 110 points per game.

Tamberlyn: They rank in the top 5 and average between 105 and 115 per game

Apr 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) drives to the basket next to Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15) in the third quarter in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Rockets 115-106. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Q3: Arguably Clint Capela is being asked to make the biggest leap on the squad. In your opinion is he ready to fill the shoes of Dwight Howard and what are realistic expectations for the young Swiss center?

Coty: Realistic speaking, I think Clint Capela could fill Howard’s shoes on the defensive end. As the starting center, Capela could become the defensive anchor the Rockets are in need of. However, as a low post scorer, I do not think Capela is capable of picking up Howard’s scoring role.

Jason: Clint will average at minimum a double double. I see him running with guards looking to help finish.

Andre: Capela’s being groomed for this spot since he arrived in Houston he’s obviously not yet ready. This season will be a huge learning experience but he must go through it. Capela can realistically contribute a double-double every single night. 10-12 Points per game as well as 11 Rebounds and at least 1.50 Blocks.

Ben: I think Clint is more than ready on almost every aspect of his game. He proved last year to be a much more willing roll man than Dwight was, and was more efficient in that position than Dwight as well (83rd percentile in pick and roll scoring, averaging 1.17 points per possession). He’s also posted similar per-36 minute defensive stats compared to Dwight. The only real issue that Capela could have is his tendency to over foul. He averages nearly 5 fouls per 36 minutes, many of which are ill advised. However, Nene will be ready and willing to step in during those moments, easing that worry.

Tamberlyn: I believe Capela is ready to step into the starting role. That said, I’m not convinced he’ll be able to play more than 25-30 minutes a night. Thankfully the Rockets have Nene who they can also use against bigger bodies. But, again this may point to the reason Motiejunas should be brought back to give the Rockets another capable big and also in case of injuries to add depth.

Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Nene Hilario (42) during a game against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Q4: Who starts: Clint Capela or Nene Hilario and why? More importantly, who is on the floor to finish games?

Jason: Capela will definitely start but I see Nene finishing. If Nene can stay out of foul trouble.

Andre: Clint Capela has to start. Nene will be on the floor to finish the game due to his experience but most importantly, I believe, because of the young center’s recurring foul trouble. Capela must learn to commit fewer fouls…

Ben: My instinct says Capela gets the starting nod, but there will be no shoo-in there. I could see them splitting the minutes pretty evenly, with whoever has had a better game on any given night being the one to finish it out.

Coty: Realistic speaking, I think Clint Capela could fill Howard’s shoes on the defensive end. As the starting center, Capela could become the defensive anchor the Rockets are in need of. However, as a low post scorer, I do not think Capela is capable of picking up Howard’s scoring role.

Tamberlyn: If the Rockets are serious about Capela taking the next step he needs to start. I envision more of a platooning of the position though and suspect D’Antoni will finish games with whoever is having a stronger game (and in the event Capela doesn’t improve his free throw shooting).

Oct 28, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dwight Powell (7) and Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) fight for the rebound during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Rockets defeat the Mavericks 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Q5 Free KJ McDaniels rants seem to have been heard by Mike D’Antoni given the minutes the youngster saw in preseason. Take a guess at his numbers this season in terms of minutes per game, and key stats.

Andre: Regarding K.J. McDaniels I have absolutely no idea what’s happening in the upcoming season but all signs points to him starting games. McDaniels will play around 20-24 minutes per game however not a huge contribution in terms of numbers: around 8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game but his impact on the defensive end will keep him on court.

Ben: I’m a huge McDaniels fan, and I hope he gets significant playing time this year. However, if he can’t improve his three point shooting (just 28% last season), he’ll ride the bench again. In this Rockets system, it won’t matter if he’s the best defender on the team (I’d argue that he is) if he can’t contribute on offense. The whole idea of the new scheme is to force defenses to leave a shooter wide open when they double up on Harden. With a 28% 3-point shooter on the floor in McDaniels, whoever is guarding him will come off to help on Harden while leaving no scoring threat unguarded. D’Antoni seems to understand his value so it’ll be up to KJ himself whether or not he wants to put in the work in the gym.

Coty: If KJ McDaniels can get a decent amount of playing time, 12 minutes, 7.3 points, 2.5 rebounds,and 3.3 assists.

Jason: Kj can be utilized as a defensive guard. With Beverly out and if brewer not playing well I see 15-20 mins a game with 10pts, 5rebs, 2 steals and a block. Ariza like numbers.

Tamberlyn: Note to Mike D’Antoni – give KJ McDaniels all of Corey brewers minutes. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening, but one can dream. I envision his numbers being all over the map again with him averaging between 10-17mpg. He’s worth on the court is undoubtedly on the defensive end, but he’s worked hard to add range. However, fans shouldn’t measure his worth by his stats other than on the defensive end. I’ll say 5 points, 3 rebounds and around a steal/block per game.

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