The NBA is changing, folks. Small ball is here to stay. You can either acknowledge it’s happening or fall behind and look dumb. 3’s matter… a lot. Everybody on your team needs to at least be capable of making one. There are a few exceptions but at no time can you have more than 1 non-shooter on the floor. Traditional Centers no longer matter. Can your center shoot at least a little? “No, but he can do other things like block shots and dunk”. Pass. From a team building standpoint, that player can’t make more than $10 million a year. If so, it’s over for you. The Rockets have gone all in on small ball and it’s working.
Players like Clint Capela are not valuable. Figure it out, people. Houston is significantly better without Capela. Since Adding Robert Covington to the fold, they are world beaters. All of the people making fun of PJ Tucker and the Rockets owe them an apology.
Here are some basic facts. When there is no center on the floor, Russell Westbrook has a true shooting percentage of 61. I’ve been the biggest antagonist of Westbrook for a number of reasons. I’m not sure all of those reasons are fixed, but the biggest one may have been cured. You can’t win anything with an inefficient Russell Westbrook. You can win with an efficient one. He’s efficient for the first time in his career.
Of course, Westbrook still can’t shoot. He’s a shade shy of 25 percent from 3. That’s abhorrent. However, he can be the one guy on the floor that can’t shoot. The paint is now wide open and he’s converting a much percentage from inside arc. The Rockets can now win with pace which was never accentuated with center on the floor.
Here’s another fact. When PJ Tucker and Robert Covington are on the floor, they are outscoring teams by 20 Per 100 possessions. I’m not making that up. PLUS 20! Two guys who can absolutely defend at a high level and switch everything. Neither guy has a problem defending big guys. Neither is clunky either and won’t turn the ball over when they have it. Fire it from 3 and get back on D.
The key for the Rockets is winning the turnover battle. We know they will lose the rebounding margin. It’s also a little overblown with the way the ball ricochets off 3-point attempts. If Houston can win the turnover battle, then we’re really talking. Both Harden and Westbrook struggle in this category. Still, I haven’t talked once about Harden’s success on the offensive end. There’s no denying small ball works. Houston has gone from screwed to competitive. The numbers don’t lie. They’re beating good teams and doing it in impressive fashion.
Can the Rockets win a championship? Probably, not. I should say 100 percent not. This was a team that was in trouble with the high probability of losing in the first round. Now? They will absolutely beat Utah if that’s who they match up with. Why? Rudy Gobert becomes unplayable in the series. Westbrook functions as your ball handling center on the offensive end. He functions as your 1 guard at the defensive end. Westbrook torched Gobert for 34 points and couldn’t guard him the whole night. Conley won’t be able to replicate that on the opposing end. Utah is screwed. Houston no longer is.