Although the Rockets have certainly had a disappointing start, they still have talented, versatile players. And don't look now, but Houston is 10-4 in their last 14 games and haven't lost at home since November. The reason why the Rockets have picked it up is not necessarily the coaching change or a cultural shift, it's the funky lineups that are stifling opposing teams.
Especially with Donatas Motiejunas returning, J.B. Bickerstaff has a myriad of uniquely skilled players to mix and match and find the right formula.
Can the Rockets win by playing Clint Capela and Dwight Howard at the same time? Skeptics would point out the lack of three-point shooting, foul trouble worries, and free throw shooting woes. Can James Harden and Ty Lawson coexist in the backcourt? The numbers are bullish.
The Lineup of Destruction: Beverley-Harden-Ariza-Capela-Howard
Whenever the 26-1 Golden State Warriors play Draymond Green at center with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Harrison Barnes surrounding him, they are virtually unstoppable. Commonly referred to as the "Lineup of Death," the five-man combination outscores opposing teams by 66.5 points per 100 possessions. That is an almost unthinkable number.
Since that production is uncanny and may never be recreated, it would be fallacy to say that the Rockets have anything close to that. On the other hand, the Rockets most effective lineup, with Clint Capela and Dwight Howard doing their best Hakeem Olajuwon/Ralph Sampson impersonation, approaches the Warriors' remarkable lineup in some respects.
With Dwight Howard, Clint Capela, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Patrick Beverley on the court, the Rockets zig while the rest of the NBA zags. Instead of spreading the floor and playing with the cliché "Pace and Space," the Rockets lay the smack down by locking down the paint defensively and crashing the boards, creating the "Lineup of Destruction."
In 78 minutes, the "Lineup of Destruction" has out-rebounded opponents by nearly 14 rebounds (the Warriors' Lineup of Death only has a +4 in that category). They have both an offensive and defensive rebounding percentage of 31.4%, which is the best for any combination on the team.
Lastly and most importantly, the "Lineup of Destruction" has a +21.8 point differential per 100 possessions, which does not even compare to Golden State's 66.5, but it is definitely not a modest number. The fact that this is the current starting lineup is very encouraging.
Lineup of Uncertainty: Lawson-Harden-Brewer-Ariza-Capela
Leading the team in point differential per 100 possessions, this five-man combination has the components of a great team: a small-ball squad with playmakers and shooters centered around a capable big.
The jury is still out on this lineup, though, since they have only shared the court for less than 14 minutes, surely too small of a sample size. Although they don't seriously qualify to be one of the best lineups for the Rockets, their +51.2 is worth mentioning. Plus, their high volume of field goal attempts (25.2) is indicative of the type of pace the Rockets want to play.
Lineup of Mediocrity: Beverley-Harden-Brewer-Jones-Capela
This grouping has played the sixth most minutes on the team, despite producing a net zero scoring output. They have played 42 minutes together and have a -0.6 point differential.
This lineup does not rebound well and shoots a lot of threes, but expectedly do not do anything spectacular.
Lineup of Chyme: Lawson-Harden-Brewer-Jones-Howard
This lineup is simply abysmal. Led by lackluster performances from Corey Brewer and Ty Lawson, this lineup has been outscored by over 33 points per 100 possessions.
The biggest issue with this lineup by the numbers is the rebounding, as they are out-rebounded by 19 boards per 100 possessions despite having Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones on the floor. What statistics won't tell you is that the reason their rebounding is so poor with that group is mainly effort.
The lack of rebounds for this lineup has led to an absurd number of field goal attempts for the opponent, 37 more than the Rockets to be exact.
Whenever they are on the court together, they play a disgusting brand of basketball that leaves the taste of vomit in my mouth. Thank God this lineup has only played 15 minutes so far.
Lineup of Kevin McHale's Ghost: Beverley-Harden-Brewer-Ariza-Howard
For much of the beginning of the season, the Rockets died with this lineup playing meaningful minutes game after game. For some reason, McHale was so hesitant to abandon components of this lineup (cough, Brewer, cough), it cost Houston several games.
This was an embarrassing attempt at a small-ball lineup with Howard as the lone big. It backfired mainly because Brewer, Ariza, and Harden have been streaky at best from behind the arc. Especially this year, all three of those guysstruggled mightily from deep early on.
Recording an abysmal point differential of -53.7 points per 100 possessions in 25 minutes, this group is worse than disappointing. Say what you will about Kevin McHale, but this lineup surely did not help his job security in Houston.