The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Houston Rockets are winning with a modern basketball philosophy

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

There is a new way of thinking in basketball circles that midrange shots, those outside of the paint but inside the three-point arc, belong on the endangered species list. The rationale is that since there are only a few players who can consistently hit that shot an above average pace, a team is better off going for the three-point shot which has a comparable efficiency rate yet worth more points. As you can see in the chart below, the only shot that was made more than 50 percent of the time last year were those taken in the restricted area. Everything else was substantially less.

It could also be argued that taking more shots from midrange leads to a less potent offense. Here are the results from last season: the more shots taken from mid range as a percentage of all shots usually led to a lower offensive rating, which is simply the number of points scored per 100 possessions.

Here is Houston’s shot selection through four games this season, with a large concentration at the rim or beyond the three-point line.

That’s why free agent Trevor Ariza should be a perfect fit. He can hit the three and doesn’t put up many shots from midrange.

And as I stated earlier, that’s getting the Rockets to the free throw line. Only the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors have gotten more free throws as a percentage of all field goal attempts than the Rockets.

This all leads to a true shooting percentage — a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account two-point field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws — of 58.3 percent, the sixth best mark in the league. Last season they had the third best true shooting percentage (57.1 percent).

We will get a better sense of just how good Houston is or isn’t in the coming games, especially when they face off against the Heat, Spurs and Warriors. However, this squad did win 54 games last season with this philosophy, so there is no reason they can’t keep this momentum going in the coming months.