Daily Rocket Science: The Success of Moreyball
As much as the media hates to admit it, the Rockets are finding immense success with their implementation of Moreyball.
Under Mike D’Antoni‘s tutelage, the Houston Rockets are playing (and winning) as a cohesive unit. James Harden has become the best point guard in the league and is a surefire MVP candidate. Eric Gordon is playing his best basketball in years in his new bench role. Clint Capela is surpassing all expectations as a premier roll man, catching lobs every night.
As a whole, the team looks locked in and focused on the goal. There are lots of people to thank for this, like the Beard and D’Antoni. However, the person who is probably not getting as much credit as he deserves is none other than general manager Daryl Morey.
Morey’s patented strategy of shooting as many shots as possible from either beyond the arc or within the restricted area has made the Rockets a threat to any team on any night. Dubbed “Moreyball,” its turned a team that was expected to creep into the playoffs into what looks like a legitimate contender.
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After realizing the ingenuity of Moreyball, several teams around the NBA are adopting some of its qualities. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer points out that a good chunk of the league seems to be “under the influence of Moreyball.” Basketball analytics is a fairly new concept, but its effect is undeniable.
The Rockets attempt more 3s than any other team (as of early Tuesday, December 7), but the Nets aren’t far behind at 40 percent; Houston also attempts 36.5 percent of its looks at the rim, compared to 34.1 percent by the Nets. The Nets aren’t having the same success because they don’t have the same talent. They aren’t just missing a James Harden, they need a Donatas Motiejunas too.
Moreyball hasn’t just made James Harden better; its effect has trickled down to other players on the roster too. According to Ethan Rothstein of The Dream Shake, Patrick Beverley has become the ultimate role player in D’Antoni’s implementation of Morey’s strategy.
A favorite broadcast cliché is to say Beverley helps the team in ways that don’t appear in the box score. While that’s party true — he’s scoring less than at any point since his rookie year, and not exactly breaking records in other areas — the box score in 2016 is a lot bigger than in year’s past. Going beyond the most rudimentary of stats actually brings out the beauty in Bev’s game. The eye test only confirms it: he is an elite role player.
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Most importantly, Moreyball has had a positive effect on the Rockets’ record. As Fran Blinebury of NBA.com writes, Houston is playing to win. Perhaps the best thing about this year’s iteration of Moreyball is that the whole team is involved. The Beard has been fantastic, but other players are stepping up on a nightly basis. If this trend continues, the Rockets will be dangerous in the postseason.
“We’re playing for each other,” Harden said. “Some nights different guys can get it going. Some nights Trevor can get it going. EG (Gordon) has been playing well. Ryan didn’t have a good shooting night, but he did the small things. Patrick hasn’t been scoring the ball a lot but he’s been rebounding and making plays. So we’ve got guys that are doing everything else to win the games and that’s what’s important.”
Houston looks to extend its winning streak to eight games tonight against the Sacramento Kings. The Kings have more than twice the amount of losses that the Rockets have, but any game against talent like DeMarcus Cousins could prove to be a tough one. If they continue to successfully implement Moreyball, though, Sac-town shouldn’t be a problem for them.
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