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By The Numbers: Where Poor Rotations Wring Rockets Defense Dry

Some interesting tidbits I found upon reviving my Synergy Sports Technology account, both good and bad:

  • Finally, some clarification on the mysteries of Jordan Hill's defense. It appears that I haven't given enough credit to him for his rather impressive individual post defense. Opponents have a ppp (points per possession) of 0.66 against Hill when matched up one-on-one against him on the block. That ranks 11th best in the league amongst individual post defenders. Kudos to you, Mr. Hill.
  • On the other hand, Hill has struggled mightily in spot-up situations, which count for nearly a third of his defensive plays. Hill gives up a ppp of 1.29 to opponents who receive a pass in a spot-up situation and either shoot or proceed to drive and then shoot. In watching the accompanying video highlights that Synergy provides, this is all a matter of poor rotation from Hill. In some cases, he got switched onto a competent three-point shooter like Vladimir Radmanovic or Thabo Sefolosha, which presented a mismatch on the perimeter that Hill shouldn't be expected to handle. However, in other cases, Hill would either lunge at his opponent and get beat off a quick slash move, or he would simply fail to close out in time. I do think this is a matter of miscommunication rather than a lack of intelligence or effort from Hill, so it's not much to fret about, lest it should continue throughout the entire season.
  • Kevin Martin gets a lot of flack for his poor defense, but there are a few areas in which Martin can hold his own. Despite his thin frame, he's actually very capable of getting through screens and closing out on jump shooters. In fact, during last night's game against Washington, the Wizards took four shots against Martin when running a player off a screen. Each one of the shots missed. In total, Martin ranks eighth in the league in preventing made jumpers off screens. He's also a capable post defender, allowing a mere 0.67 ppp in those situations, should a stronger guard attempt to post up the limber Martin.
  • Martin's primary shortcomings stem from his inability to successfully close out in spot-up situations (opponent ppp of 1.2 ranks Martin 239th in the league). As was the case with Hill, this is a matter of poor rotation. Martin appears to be able to stay with his man through screens, but once he is entitled to keep an eye on the entire floor, he gets caught out of position once his man catches a pass for a shot.
  • We don't need statistics to tell us how difficult it is for Martin to stay with a quicker guard in isolation. So that's that.
  • Praise for Martin? Absolutely. He's 19 for 30 on transition three-pointers. That's pretty amazing. In total, he ranks third in the league at finishing in transition with a ppp of 1.57. No wonder it's tough to take notice of his large scoring outputs during a game: a good portion of those points are scored on the run.
  • Does Martin do anything poorly on offense? If anything, he could limit his three-pointers in isolation and off screens, where he is shooting 26.9% and 28.6%, respectively.
  • Last, but not least, there are two primary areas of Houston's defense that need some fine-tuning. Again, for the billionth (or third) time, these relate back to poor rotations. Opponents are succeeding in making shots in spot-up and hand off situations against the Rockets (respective ranks of 21 and 26 in the NBA). They are also dominating Houston in isolation situations: the Rockets rank 27th in defending in isolation. Obviously, without a competent center in tow, it's much more difficult to prevent opponents from driving into the paint one-on-one. 
  • P.S.: Ironically, despite how poorly the Rockets are performing in spot-up defense, they're succeeding admirably in spot-up offense, with a ppp of 1.11 (good for second in the league). These situations make up 19% of their offensive output, the largest percentage amongst the various possibilities.

It's nice to have Synergy access once again. I'll keep posting numbers as I feel they are relevant.