Could the Houston Rockets have beaten the San Antonio Spurs this postseason if they had a top defense to go with that white-hot offense? I think it’s fair to say it’s possible. It also would have helped if James Harden didn’t look completely disconnected in Game 6.
In any case, a big defensive leap is one of coach Mike D’Antoni’s goals for next season.
Speaking to the Houston Chronicle, D’Antoni made it an explicit mark for the 2017-18 season for the Rockets to get to a Top 10 ranking.
Via Houston Chronicle:
“The offense starts off, we just had one layer in, and it was pretty good, but we can add to that. Defensively is where we are going to make our most strides and, again, we are talking about being a top 10 (defense). That is the key.
I guarantee we will get better.”
They’ve got a long way to go if they want to get better. Houston ranked 18th in defensive rating this season according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Still, I don’t think it’s entirely impossible the Rockets at least improve. Another year together will help, Harden is a capable defender if inactive at times, and developing talent in Clint Capela fits nicely alongside positive defensive box plus/minus guys like Trevor Ariza.
There’s also something to be said about D’Antoni’s system and his track record. Outside of the 2011-12 New York Knicks — a team from which D’Antoni resigned partway through the season — the offensive guru has never been the head coach of a team with a defensive rating inside the Top 10 in 12 seasons as skipper.
It’s going to be a stretch, but the Rockets can use all the help they can get after a disappointing end to their season.