One of the things that have made the Houston Rockets’ offense unique this season is not only the amount of threes that they are shooting — which, on its own, is taking the league by storm — but also how deep the three-pointers they sometimes hit, more than 5 feet behind the line.
In seasons past, pretty much the only player the NBA had to worry about jacking up shots from 27-plus feet was Stephen Curry, who put up 188 deep threes last year). Curry is a freak, they said, and you just can't stop him.
This year Curry again is putting up a ton of deep threes (81), but now the Rockets big three of Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and James Harden are following suit by jacking up 158 three-pointers from 27-plus feet combined.
Before,, you could chalk it up to Curry just taking all these insane shots, but now, it’s actually part of the Rockets offense. The NBA just isn't really sure how to handle what Mike D'Antoni and his group of Rocket Launchers are doing.
“You can't get caught just trying to spread out all over the place defensively and start pressing at 50 feet," Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan told The Dream Shake when asked about trying to guard the Rockets deep threes. "(You'd) really open yourself up for a lot more threes, and you also open yourself for a lot of drives and a lot of long rotations.”
Donovan also mentioned that the Rockets are a very, very good deep paint team, with 31% of their shots coming 0-3 feet from the rim, good enough for fifth in the NBA.
Donovan's worried if his team went out and guarded the Rockets shooters 30 feet from the rim, it would open up so much more space on the floor. And he’s right. Donovan's knew his team had to allow the threes from Sugar Land, as Bill Worrell calls them; there’s nothing they could do if Gordon wanted to pull up from 28 feet.
It may be a simple way to look at it, but it doesn't seem like the NBA has really figured out what to do with the Rockets.
Multiple times a game, Gordon, Anderson or Harden will raise up from 27 feet or deeper and shoot the ball. Most of the time they are either left wide open or a defender is left closing out as hard has he can from more than 5 feet away.
With the Rockets seemingly doing whatever they want on offense to teams, D'Antoni just might have found one of the biggest cheat codes in all of basketball with the deep three.
D'Antoni was the inventor of the seven seconds or less offense. Maybe he will be the man who finally brings the four-point line to the NBA.