The trade “deadline” came and went. Morey couldn’t find a fair trade for Asik so I guess Asik will have to wait for the February trade deadline and if Morey can find good value for Lin, then Lin will be out of Houston by that trade deadline, as well. Morey made the right move by keeping Asik, because there really wasn’t much out there. I, of course, think the best thing for the Rockets is to keep the team as is. But keeping the team as is is not good for Asik or Lin. So it’s a tough situation all around.
Anyway, I came across a very interesting article, which puts stats to something I’ve been complaining about ad nauseam since probably early last season: McHale’s poor rotation. This season, McHale’s lack of usage of the Rockets bench is, perhaps, even more glaring, given that the Rockets have a very deep bench. Here’s the article if you want to check it out for yourself.
The article looks at bench playing time and Net Points per 100 Possessions (NPPP). Here’s a chart which plots out all the NBA teams along these stats:
As you can see in the chart, average bench playing time is 36 percent. The Rockets, despite having a great bench, plays its bench below the average at 32 percent. Just how good is the Rockets bench? Here are some stats from the article:
- 3rd in Points per Possessions
- 4th in True Shooting Percentage
- 5th in Net Points per 100 Possessions
- 8th in +/- per game
Only five other teams play their benches less than the Houston Rockets: Pacers, Timberwolves, Blazers, Wizards and Warriors. What these teams have in common is an unproductive bench. Their benches have negative Net Points per Possessions with the Wizards being an atrocious minus 13.10. The Rockets, on the other hand are 5th in NPPP (+6.10), yet they are 6th from last when it comes to playing time. Something does not make sense and that something is called McHale. McHale’s lack of trust in any players not named Harden, Howard, Parsons and Beverley is really killing this team.
No surprise, the Spurs lead the league in terms of bench playing time 46% and are second in terms of NPPP (11.10). If the Rockets played their bench the way it should be played, the Rockets would have a NPPP somewhere in this vicinity and Harden and Parsons wouldn’t be so banged up so early in the season. The Heat and Thunder also play their bench a healthy amount, despite having a lot of superstars in their starting lineup. If McHale were to coach the Heat and Thunder, their bench wouldn’t see the light of day and their record also wouldn’t be as good. This is how damaging McHale’s player rotation is to the Rockets. And it’s why I’ve been complaining about it ad nauseum since early last season.
In the chart above, all the teams on the right side of the chart have positive NPPP numbers, meaning they have productive benches. As you can see, The Clippers is the only other team that has a very productive bench that is well below average in terms of minutes played. Harden, Parsons, and Howard rank 1st in the league in minutes per game (mpg) for all 3-man lineups. In terms of minutes played, they are the big three, not Lebron, Wade and Bosh. Harden and Parsons ranks 4th in mpg for all 2-man lineups and Harden ranks 3rd in the league in mpg. The other interesting stat from the article that highlights how devastating McHale’s over use of Parsons is that Parsons ranks 4th in the league in distance traveled per game–meaning Parsons runs the floor a heavy amount. But McHale has a very cavalier and dismissive attitude towards player fatigue so I’m sure he doesn’t pay attention to any of these stats or when Howard was humble enough to speak up and say that players should speak up when they’re tired and need a breather.
With Harden, Parsons, and Howard playing heavy minutes, there’s really not that much time left for the rest of the bench. The entire second unit is basically fighting for Jones and Beverley’s time, although Beverley also has started playing heavy minutes. Of curse, the excuse that McHale can give is that Asik really hasn’t been in the lineup and Lin has been injured, etc., but he played his favorite guys heavy minutes even when everyone was healthy. So I don’t buy that excuse. This is just the way McHale is. That being said, I think he will make a concerted effort to play Asik more, since he appeared to not want to give up Asik. So we’ll see. Hopefully, all of these injuries to the team will wake McHale up to the devastating effects of his lopsided player rotation.