The reconfigured Rockets begin the process of figuring out team chemistry Thursday night when they face the Western Conference-leading Lakers.
The Rockets have led the NBA in three-point attempts in each of the last three seasons– setting the league record on each occasion–and are on pace to at least lead the NBA again with 43.84 attempts from beyond the arc per game this season. Following Wednesday’s 12-player, four-team trade, though, Houston (32-18) does appear to be making a run at last season’s franchise-record average of 45.38 attempts.
The Rockets dealt starting center Clint Capela to the Hawks along with veteran big man Nene, forward Gerald Green and their 2020 first round pick to the Nuggets. In return, they received swingman Robert Covington and Jordan Bell from the Timberwolves. The trade means the Rockets–anchored by star scoring guards James Harden (35.8 points per game) and Russell Westbrook (26.4)–is going to rely even heavier on the perimeter game.
The 6-foot-7 Covington, who averaged 12.8 points and 6.0 rebounds, while shooting 34.6% from deep, was the key player the Rockets sought for their postseason ambitions. He has the size to guard the multitude of talented small forwards in the Western Conference–most notably Lakers forward LeBron James, fellow All-Star Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers, and Leonard’s teammate Paul George.
Covington’s defensive versatility also plays into Houston’s philosophy of switching on screens in defensive coverage, but the gaping hole in the middle with the departure of the 25-year-old Capela must be addressed via team rebounding. The Rockets were 11-1 in the 12 games Capela missed before being dealt, and it would not be a surprise if general manager Daryl Morey makes another move to bolster his team’s frontcourt.