HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 16: Tilman Fertitta, left, owner of the Houston Rockets and Daryl Morey, … [+]
December 15 was the date when NBA teams could officially trade players signed this past offseason, per the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. The date is widely considered the start of trade season.
After starting their season 11-3, the Houston Rockets have gone 7-6. December, in general, has been quite the missed opportunity with the team going just 5-3 so far, squandering an opportunity to fatten up on an extremely weak schedule.
The Rockets opened the month losing an overtime affair against the Spurs, but followed it up with their most impressive victory of the season – a win at Toronto. They then beat Phoenix but came home and lost to Sacramento at the buzzer. Thanks to some heroics from James Harden, the Rockets then beat Cleveland and Orlando, but then lost at home to an undermanned Detroit team. Finally, they needed to come back from down 25 to beat San Antonio. Right now, the Rockets don’t look like a true contender.
At the time of writing, the Rockets have the third best offense in the league with an offensive rating of 113.6. Only the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks are better. But Houston has just the 16th best defense in the league. The Rockets own the tenth best net rating in the league at +4.8.
Since November 20, when their troubles began with a three-game losing stretch, the Rockets have owned the third best offensive rating at 114.5, the 19th best defensive rating at 110.5, and the 11th best net rating at +4.0.
From October 24 through November 19, when the Rockets went 11-3, they had the third best offensive rating in the league at 112.7, the 15th best defensive rating at 107.2, and the seventh best net rating at +5.5.
Defense has consistently been a problem all year with the team hovering anywhere from middle of the pack to the bottom third in defensive rating all season. Historically, teams have needed to rank in the top ten in both offense and defense to really be deemed a viable championship contender.
The Rockets will look to add a piece at the trade deadline, though it will be tricky given ownership’s aversion to the luxury tax. The Rockets also don’t have large tradable salaries so any acquisition would most likely be a modest addition.
The biggest addition will come in the form of shooting guard Eric Gordon who is slated to return from injury within the next few weeks. The former Sixth Man of the Year will add depth to a wing rotation which has been thin all season, even despite the surprise emergence of guard Ben McLemore.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni said Gordon will be eased back into the rotation upon his return.
“There’ll be some games when [Gordon] ramps up when he does come back,” D’Antoni said. “He’ll play 20 minutes or 15 minutes. It depends on him. He could play great right at first. It could take a while. You never know.”