The last six games have caused somewhat of a panic amongst Rockets fans. The stretch included two wins (over Denver and Detroit... bleh) and four losses. Those four losses- first to Atlanta, then Memphis and then after the two wins, to Utah and Portland- have seemingly perpetuated a narrative of distrust in Houston's ability to continue playing at a high level. Normally four losses in an 82 game season would be seen as a "down week" but this is the Internet and we're not a normal bunch, so let's get to over-reactin'.
To anyone watching the games, the reasons for the losses were fairly obvious. In Memphis it was the no-call on Harden that should have resulted in go-ahead free-throws to seal the deal, but for the rest of the games it appeared on face as if the Rockets simply couldn't generate enough defense or rebounding around the post to keep from getting toasted in the paint. One could even argue that the only reason Houston's game against Memphis was so close was due to the big second half from Grizz forward Zach Randolph, a dominant force on the boards.
To put it simply, the Rockets frontcourt is dangerously undersized at the moment.
Size around the basket dictates certain strengths for a basketball team. Namely post defense, and rebounding, the latter being the larger of Houston's issues as of late. According to NBA-Stats, Houston's current rebounding percentage sits tied with Memphis and Denver at a pedestrian 13th in league with 49.9 percent.
So why has one of the league's best teams suffered from such mediocre rebounding lately?
The reasons are myriad, but the one big standout in the equation is the absence of the league's best (?) center, Dwight Howard.
The amount of time Dwight has missed this season means that Houston has had to create a frontcourt by committee with help from Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Josh Smith and Joey Dorsey.
The longest of these individuals is the Lithuanian big-man, Motiejunas, standing at 7'0. The next tallest are Dorsey and Smith who both stand at 6'9.
Now try and follow this advanced line of thinking: The thing about rebounds is, if you're tall, you should probably be better at grabbing them than people who are less tall.
I know, I know. It's tough to understand, but bear with me.
This means if the Rockets want to be a good rebounding team, the tallest guy should be a good rebounder, or at least some of the tall-ish guys should be good rebounders. Numbers on D-Mo, Jones, Dorsey and Smith suggest that this is not the case.
Sans Dwight Howard, the player with the highest rebounding rate on the team is Joey Dorsey at 18.9, which, if you've watched Mr. Dorsey play, you're aware is of no help because he tends to be a big enough liability in other areas that Coach Kevin McHale can't justify giving him enough playing time to have real impact on the game. After that would be Terrence Jones with a rebounding rate of 14.9. While Jones does gain significant playing time, it doesn't bode well for the Rockets that compared to the league, 14.9 ranks 70th amongst active players. Down at 99th in the league sits Josh Smith with a rebounding rate of 12.8 and if we keep going down the list we finally arrive at the only rocket taller than 6'9... D-Mo.
Oh, D-Mo. His footwork and moves in the post make him a solid offensive option to draw in the defense in the absence of Dwight, but his rebounding is a legitimate concern. The seven footer ranks at 110th with a disastrous rebounding rate of 11.8.
When one looks at these numbers it becomes understandable why a team like the Jazz (first in the league in rebounding percentage) or Trail Blazers (seventh in defensive rebounding percentage) would have such an advantage over the Rockets when it comes to grabbing boards and generating second chance opportunities.
There's no question that having a healthy Dwight Howard back in the lineup will alleviate the problems facing the current front court and I think I speak for all Rockets fans when I say that the sooner he returns, the better.