The Sacramento Kings are in Houston on this fine Saturday to take on a surging Houston Rockets squad who took over possession of the league’s slowest pace last night. The Houston Rockets, who made a living running and gunning far better than nearly every team in NBA history, are 15 games into their season and playing at a slower pace than the Memphis Grizzlies. But we’ll get into that later! James Harden, oooooh! Chris Paul, woooooow! Mike D’Antoni, yeeeeeahh! Now that you’re paying attention, let’s talk Kings basketball.
When: Saturday, November 16th; 5 pm PST
Where: Toyota Center, Houston TX
Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM
For Your Consideration
Melo’d Out: So. You’ve shown up to this preview this morning to hear about the struggling but still unbearably good Rockets offense, their penchant for world beating on mediocre teams like the Kings happily are this year, and the crazy efficiency and production that they possess as a Monster squad of NBA scorers. And I’m here to tell you: that story is over. Like you, I heard the Rockets were struggling this season and I just attributed it to roster turnover, a bit of the Carmelo Anthony curse, and a spritz of getting older. I didn’t put any serious stock in it because, well, its the Rockets. They were a Chris Paul hamstring from winning an NBA Finals last year. When I jumped in and started writing this preview, I was absolutely floored by what has happened to them to start the season, to the point where when I was looking at their numbers I audibly said “Wait, WHAT” and went back and checked to make sure all the other teams stats were what they should be. But no, those websites didn’t suddenly freeze and I wasn’t staring at the Memphis Grizzlies page. Cue the mike in my helmet: Houston, we have a problem.
First things first, after laying the smack down on a struggling Kings squad last night, the Memphis Grizzlies have in fact moved up to the second slowest pace in the NBA, and in their stead the Rockets have moved in. The Rockets, who were third in pace in 2016-17, thirteenth in ‘17-18, are now the rock at the very bottom of the NBA pond. On the surface there’s an even more puzzling stat: the second highest scoring team in the NBA the last two season has dropped to the third lowest scoring average in the league. This off-season the NBA instituted two things that should have been an absolute boon for the Rockets: they instituted new handcheck rules that keeps defenders even further off of offensive players and then they changed the way the shotclock resets after a missed shot, where it only heads to 14 seconds now instead of the full 24. This, this right here, has got to be Rocket’s GM Daryl Morey’s worst nightmare. They get more possessions and offensive players get more leeway and suddenly the Rockets go from averaging 112+ points last season to 103.4.
So why? James Harden is still working it: 27.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game is still MVP level production. Chris Paul is showing his age a bit with 17 points 5.4 rebounds and 7.5 assists a contest but that’s still, you know, great for a second guy. Eric Gordon is sitting at 15 a game off the bench, big man and bigger paycheck Clint Capela is right around 16 points. Where does it go wrong? Well... right after that basically. After the release of Carmelo Anthony, the next two guys up on that scoring list are PJ Tucker and James Ennis at 8.8 points per game. Below that is a wasteland of non-shooters where a deep bench of them used to live and thrive. While individually, the stats look solid from player to player, as a team they have the worst field goal percentage in the entire league at 42.4%. Weirder still for a team that is all about getting shots up, they take the fourth fewest amount of shots. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still tossing almost 43 shots a game from behind the arc, but this season they’re 24th in actually putting them through; the Rockets as a team are shooting 33% from deep.
Let’s throw out some other stuff: they’re the worst defensive rebounding team in the league, something that the Kings will absolutely have to take advantage of Saturday night. The Rockets are the second worst assisting team in the league. They’re in the bottom third in the league in FREE THROW ATTEMPTS. This is not championship level basketball. Yet still, I’m terrified of this team. These guys are a sleeping dragon that is just now starting to wake up. At any point this season they could get hot, remember what it takes to beat any team in the league and then go out there and do it. I mean they did just beat the Warriors by 21 points, and before that it was Denver by 10 and the Pacers by 12. They’re winners in 6 of their last 8 contests. They have 7 total wins. I don’t know. I just... I don’t know ya’ll.
James Harden didn’t hear that De’Aaron Fox is the new James Harden. De’Aaron Fox did hear that he is the new James Harden and out guns James Harden who is now a poor man’s De’Aaron Fox. Buddy Hield scores 40 because I’m feeling frisky with points tonight.
Kings 129, Rockets, 124