Before we go too deep into this article, let's get this out of the way now. Yes, it's just preseason, and we are only two games in, so a lot of (pretty much all) the season is still ahead. However, now that we got that out of the way, it does need to be pointed out that being one of the youngest teams in the league, the Houston Rockets need the preseason probably more than any other team.
After the Rockets 113-106 loss to the Miami Heat, Houston dug a big hole in the first half. From turnovers to bad free-throw shooting, the Heat could take advantage and play at their pace, and the first three quarters played out exactly how the Heat game-planned it.
As mentioned earlier, you never want to overreact to preseason games, because teams aren't putting in complete game plans and aren’t playing their starters a full game. The caveat for the Rockets is that they are so young, and every game matters when you are a rebuilding team trying to form good habits. Here are three areas the Rockets need to continue to improve on going into the regular season.
Pushing the pace
The Rockets have a 21-year-old point guard and a 19-year-old shooting guard, which means they don't have a lot of half-court experience in the NBA and, in the case of Green, barely any at all. This implies the Rocket's best chance on most nights scoring consistently is to push the pace much as possible.
Coach Silas has stated all off-season that he wants his team to push the ball up the court every chance they get. With so many young players, this helps the team get easy baskets while hopefully tiring out the opponent in the process.
The Rockets had 17 fast break points versus the Wizards and only ten versus the Heat. This can also be attributed to one team being a letter team, more than likely this year, and the other possibly competing for a championship. That being said, it's even more of a reason to get out on the break because you are not consistently beating teams like the Heat in the half-court.
Put Christian Wood in better spots to score
Christian Wood was a 20 and 10 player last year, albeit in only 41 games. With those types of numbers, you are expecting a big season this year for Wood. However, through the first two preseason games, it has been a bit of a struggle for Wood to get comfortable within the offense. Again, it's a young team with a lot of new faces, and even though Wood is one of the older players on the team, he still hasn't been on the court with most of his teammates.
Last game, Wood shot five three-pointers, which doesn't seem like a lot, but that's not the strength of Wood game. Instead, his strength is going downhill either on fast breaks or from pick-and-rolls, where he can use his speed and athleticism. Getting Wood closer to the basket also limits the number of moves he needs to make to get into his comfort zone.
Yes, Wood shot over 37 percent from downtown last year, but you don't want him constantly on the perimeter having to dribble between several players. Wood pick-and-rolls with Porter Jr. or Green would be hard to stop considering all three players are a threat to score from anywhere on the court. Have Wood handle the ball less and focus more on scoring is the best option.
Free throw shooting
Free throw shooting is often overlooked, but is a critical part of any team's success. It's the difference between winning close games and giving away free points that can cost you games.
The Rockets have shot 59.5 percent from the charity stripe in their win over the Wizards and only 69.7 percent in their loss against the Heat. Of course, those numbers should rise as we get into the season, but even shooting in the low 70 percent won’t get it done. Wood, for instance, through two games, is shooting 6-16 from the line for only 37.5 percent after only shooting 63.1 percent from the free-throw line last year.
Again this number will get better (hopefully) as the season goes on, but even a rebuilding team like the Rockets needs to take advantage of getting to the foul line considering they will not be, on most nights, the better half-court team.
If you have gotten this far, congratulations, because even though I have pointed out several areas, the Rockets need to improve on, it is still just preseason, which means there is plenty of time to improve, and with more experience on the court, it should happen.