Several other league teams, more so in the Western Conference, have also used the offseason trade window to trade players. This makes them good enough to bring a competitive edge to the game with the chances of winning the title in the 2019-20 season.
Even with some of the best players on their court, the Houston Rockets still cannot seem to win the championship. Here are the leading reasons for their lack of a championship win looking back to their 2020 season.
Issues in their defense
A few seasons ago, the dominance of the Rockets in the championship was evident with high regular season records and making it to the Western Conference finals. James Harden became the most valuable player in the 2018 league thanks to his lead as the main defense, ranking sixth overall.
While defenses usually win championships, the rockets were not consistent in their 2020 season and failed to dominate the game’s defensive aspect. In 2020, they were ranked 15th in defensive efficiency.
According to these statistics, they were 14th in rebounding, giving their opponents an average of 114.4 points on each game, which ranked them 22nd. In this season, Russel Westbrook had a negative two on his offensive rating, which meant that he allowed their opponents to score more against him than e scored.
The departure of Jeff Bzdelik, a coach in defense, was a major setback for the Rockets. Jeff was a key point in the defensive mechanism of the team since he was last employed to the team in 2018. The lack of a defense is a leading reason for the setbacks the Rockets are facing when it comes to winning the championship.
Deficits in Westbrook’s game
While there is no doubt that Russell is an exceptional player as the 2017 MVP and a 9-time NBA All-star, there are still major deficiencies in his game. His weaknesses can be detrimental to the success of the Houston Rockets in the coming seasons.
The rockets are known to prefer the three-point shot game. They managed a 44.1 attempt per game of the 90.7 shots they attempted for every match in 2020. With a 34.8 three-point average, they only managed to rank 23rd in the NBA.
Russell’s record is not as impressive, with a 25.8% attempts average per game. This has forced their defense to focus more on Harden than on him when playing hard or soft double-teams. As the second-best scoring option for the team, Westbrook has shown inconsistency, which hurts the team’s offensive output and floor spacing.
Westbrook also shows a -2 in possession, meaning he allows the opponents to score 109 points when scoring just 107. This makes him a liability in his team’s defense even though he fills the statistics sheet. Last season, he managed 27.5 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists for every game he played for the Rockets.
The lack of a size
When it comes to size and height, there is no denying that the Houston Rockets are a bit challenged compared to other teams in the NBA. Before the suspension of the season in 2020, the team was 40-24, seeding sixth in Western Conference. The lack of tall players was made worse with the mid-season trade that saw Clint Capela, one of their tall players, leave for the Atlanta Hawks.
The 6ft 10’ 25-year-old player had a 13.9 points average when leaving the Rockets with a 12.8 rebound rate, a career-high for him.
Capela’s departure left the Rockets with just one 7footer, the 37-year-old Tyson Chandler, who was contributing 8.4 minutes for every game. This was a significant deficit, especially because other teams like the Lakers have three 7-footers who contributed greatly to their season.
With their lack of tall players combined with their below-average three-point shooting, playing a team like the Lakers with 19 fastbreak points per game only proved to be a nightmare for the Rockets, pushing them further away from a championship title.
The lack of depth on the bench
In 2020, the Houston Rockets only had nine players with an average of more than fifteen minutes playing time after the mid-season changes. Before the trade deadline in 2020, the Rockets mostly relied on eight players, which put a lot of pressure on their game. This made it possible for Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers to get more time off the bench before a knee injury sidelines Eric.
It was evident that D’Antoni does not have much faith in his bench, which was not the best thing when attempting to win more than 16 playoffs to win the title. In 2018, when the team last made it to the finals of the Western Conference, the Rockets has more than 13 players with more than 15 minutes of playing time to rely on. This is how they managed to play bigger teams with deeper benches like the Milwaukee Bucks, LA Lakers, and the Clippers.
The Western Conference competition has gotten stiffer
In the 2020 season, the Rockets were expected to face serious completion in their attempts to win the title. Even with Westbrook as a point guard and a mid-season deal for Covington, this was not much compared to what other teams in the Western Conference did to boost their player options.
The Lakers added players like Anthony Davos from the New Orleans Pelicans and a few free agents, putting them first in the Western Conference. The Clippers signed Paul George and the 2019 MVP Kawhi Leonard who was a free agent. Other teams signing new and influential players made it harder for the Rockets to win the championship.
In 2020, the window closed for the Rockets to win while relying on Harden as their star. Whether they will succeed in the coming season will greatly depend on their ability to sign players who will fill the deficits they currently have in their team, on the court and the bench.