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Houston Rockets: Slippery Slope

Less than a week ago the Rockets were riding a 4 game winning streak and had climbed up to 4th place in the Western Conference. Now, they've lost 3 in a row (two by double digits), and have slipped into 7th place; just 2 games ahead of the 9th place Minnesota Timberwolves for the final playoff spot. This year's Rockets squad has been a very tough team to figure out so far. How did they beat the Nuggets on the road by 9 points a month ago, and then turn around and lose to the Nuggets without their two best players in Houston? There has to be a reason for the inconsistency.


So what's the common theme in their losses? Looking at their team splits, it's rebounding. In their wins the Rockets are averaging 5.5 more rebounds than in their losses; every other stat is basically even in wins/losses. During the 3 game losing streak, the Rockets are being out-rebounded by an average of 12 rebounds per game.


One idea that may seem crazy, but it could fix the problem, is giving Chase Budinger more playing time at the expense of Kevin Martin. Per 36 minutes, Budinger averages 3 more rebounds, and shoots better from the 3-point line and from the field overall. Looking a little deeper, Budinger's offensive rating (an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions) is higher than Martin's (113-112). Is it a guarantee fix? Of course not, but the numbers support at least trying it. Budinger is a better rebounder, an equal shooter, and is equally bad on defense; it's worth a shot. Right now Martin averages 14 more minutes per game (32-18); I'd like to see McHale change that to something close to a 50/50 split.


As an individual talent, Kevin Martin is the better player. However, basketball is a team game and the numbers suggest that Buddinger could be a better fit right now. They have an easy stretch of games coming up against New Jersey, Cleveland, and Charlotte; I think this is the time to try something new.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.