The Houston Rockets may be 6-3, but we all know that record to be extremely misleading.
While the Rockets have piled on victories over bottom-feeding teams such as the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans as of late, two things still stick out like a sore thumb — the team’s inability to defend and the fact that the Rockets are worse off when Russell Westbrook is on the court.
Despite the fact that Westbrook has put up some massive numbers — what else is new — every advanced metric illustrates the Rockets are worse when the former MVP is on the court — especially when he’s paired alongside James Harden.
As Kirk Goldsberry of ESPN points out, the Rockets are not just worse when Westbrook is on the court — they’re significantly worse.
Russell Westbrook is a Terrible Fit For the Rockets
When you look at the team’s net rating compared to when Chris Paul was on the team, the metrics illustrate that the Rockets won’t come close to matching the success that they experienced when Paul was on the team.
“Regardless, this team isn’t great overall right now, especially with Westbrook on the floor. Look at this:
- Houston’s 2019-20 net rating with Westbrook on the court: -1.1.
- Houston’s 2019-20 net rating with Westbrook off the court: +7.8.
Compare those marks to the man whom he’s replacing:
- Houston’s 2018-19 net rating with Paul on the court: +8.3.
- Houston’s 2018-19 net rating with Paul off the court: +2.5.”
If that wasn’t demonstrative enough of what kind of negative impact Westbrook has on the 2019-20 Rockets, I’ll point out yet another stat — the one where the highly-hyped duo of Westbrook and Harden is somehow even worse.
“This early in the season, it’s hard to find reasons to suggest the Westbrook-era Rockets will be better than the Paul-era Rockets (when healthy). In the 87 minutes that Harden has sat and Westbrook has played, the Rockets have a putrid net rating of minus-18.8, largely thanks to atrocious defensive numbers.”
Because of the team’s inability to defend, the offense — which is still the second-most efficient offense in the league despite Westbrook’s 23.5 3-point shooting percentage and Harden’s 39.4 field-goal percentage — the offense can’t outscore opponents.
The Rockets currently rank 22nd in defensive net rating. Because they know how bad both Harden and Westbrook are on the defensive end — which doesn’t exactly help the unit play any better — Houston is trying to offset its clear defensive weaknesses by overcompensating on offense.
Rockets Are Overly Reliant on the Fast Break
How have they changed their style of play in an attempt to score more points? They’re increasing their pace and no longer playing a bogged-down half-court, isolation-style offense.
In other words, they’re relying on the fastbreak to out-duel opponents.
“If you want to understand how Westbrook is changing the Rockets, just look at their pace and transition numbers.
- Last year the Rockets ranked 27th in the NBA in pace — this year they rank second.
- Westbrook currently ranks second in the NBA in transition points per game.
- Westbrook currently ranks first in passes leading to transition shots.”
The Rockets may currently be third in the Western Conference standings through the first nine games of the season, but the statistics show that this team is going to have a hard time competing when it matters most.
And Westbrook is the biggest reason why.