The Rockets only shoot 43.9 percent from the field as a team, 23rd in the league. It doesn't help that the player that's supposed to be their best shooter has struggled immensely.
Back in his second stint as a Rocket, Trevor Ariza is putting up 12.5 points per game, which is the third-highest of his career. But he's doing it at an all-time low 37.1 percent shooting.
His first stint with the Red wasn't that great: 14.9 points on 39.4 percent shooting. But this current stint is horrible.
The Rockets knew what they were going to get when they signed Ariza: a 3-and-D player. After he flourished in Washington last season, making 40.3 percent of his threes, (the 7th highest 3-point percentage of a player that attempts at least five 3's per game that season), he unexpectedly bolted to Houston. He replaced Chandler Parsons, who signed with the Mavericks after they offered him a huge (ridiculous) contract.
And while he's been a good defender thus far this season, his 3-point shooting hasn't been the same. He's making 33 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, which isn't horrible, but it's a far cry from what he shot last season.
He's been decent on the road this season, putting up 14.1 PPG on 41.5 percent shooting, But at home it's been the exact opposite. He's putting up 10.9 PPG on 33.1% shooting, and only producing 95 points per 100 possessions.
Fun fact: Ariza went 27 straight games shooting below 50 percent this season, the most in 5 seasons.
You know what sucks most about Ariza's shooting struggles? You can't risk subbing him out. There's a reason why he plays 35.7 minutes a game (13th in the league): he's a damn good defender.
Nobody else on the Rockets can come close to the level of wing defense Ariza brings. Corey Brewer is a good defender, but at 6-9 and only 186 pounds, he's bound to get bullied in the post. Josh Smith hasn't been a good wing defender all year. Harden has been a decent defender so far this season, but you don't want him wasting so much energy of the defensive end, especially considering how valuable he is on the other end of the floor.
Which brings a real problem for the Rockets: teams will eventually catch wind of Ariza's awful shooting, and start playing him like that. It was sin to leave Ariza open from 3 last year, but with a worse shooting percentage, teams might end up leaving him open a couple of more times, maybe even on purpose.
Which brings me to the mental aspect of Ariza's shooting struggles. Players are always more confident on defense when they are making shots on offense: they go hand in hand. What happens if the Rockets somehow end up playing the Thunder in the playoffs? If they do, Ariza will end up guarding Kevin Durant, and you know damn well that Durant is going to make shots. Ariza can make those shots hard or easy to make. If he's not making shots on offense, he's going to lose confidence and that confidence can affect how he plays on defense.
Ariza has two jobs when he's on the floor: make shots and play defense. He's only doing one of those jobs, and the one he isn't doing can affect how he does the other.
All stats provided by basketball-reference.com
Ed. addition: To get out in front of visiting Wizards fans calling it the John Wall Effect, I submit to you this, via SportVU player tracking:
You see that? Ariza is at 37.1 percent from deep this year when he's wide open. The John Wall Effect is getting shooters open shots in the corner. If 2014-2015 Ariza were playing with John Wall, Wall's assists would be down because Ariza hasn't been making his open shots. Ariza is, in my opinion, too good of a shooting to be missing that many wide open looks, so here's hoping this corrects itself.