Houston at Phoenix
Time: 8 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: HOU -8.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
PHX TEAM NOTES:
The Phoenix Suns are just 11-43 this season, possessing a bottom-third defense that allows 115.7 points per game while the Suns manage to score just 106.2 itself, ranking worst in the Association. The point differential is -9.5.
Phoenix has a few great top talents, but it cannot seem to find much rhythm or continuity on the defensive end.
Devin Booker is averaging 24.3 points per game and 6.8 assists, but his efficiency has been questionable with a PER Of just 18.4 due to his 45 percent shooting and 31 percent three-point shooting.
TJ Warren has rounded into one of the better undersized forwards in the league, but his tough defense has gone unnoticed on a team so poor in that respect. Warren also averages 18 points per game in just over 30 minutes a night.
The Suns have been quite pleased with No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton. Ayton looks seasoned and is a good rim protector. He is averaging 16.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.77 blocks/steals per game. The Suns ideally would like him to swat more shots, but his overall defense has been solid for a rookie.
Outside of that top-3, the Suns start to fall off….
The biggest hole is at point guard where Phoenix recently cut journeyman Isaiah Canaan. And Josh Jackson has fallen out of the starting lineup, seeing just 17 minutes a game to average seven points per contest. The Suns have some nice pieces intact at the top of the roster but need depth, a point guard, and defensive identity, where it currently has none save its sieve identity in giving up so many while scoring so few itself. Phoenix is a disaster entirely, but it will try to build around its two studs– Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton–with yet another high draft pick in 2019.
HOU TEAM NOTES:
Though the Rockets have struggled this season, the team has won six of its last 10 overall and still is situated No. 6 in the Western Conference. The team lost Trevor Ariza over the offseason, hoping that replacing him with Carmelo Anthony would solve its problems. It did none of that, and the team has taken many steps back defensively, which ultimately is the reason it has failed to succeed at the rate it did a year ago. Houston is surrendering 111.1 points per game and scoring 112.7 itself, which yields just a 1.6 positive, point differential.
The Rockets must tighten up its defense significantly to rejoin the realm of Western Conference contenders, which many are feeling can still happen.
But it cannot be all Clint Capela’s work, despite the outstanding season the center is putting together. Capela recently suffered an injury and was said to be out for four to six weeks. That leaves the Houston Rockets with a massive hole at the 5-spot, given its lack of sizeable backups. Nevermind the fact that Clint Capela alone was having a career breakout season.
Capela had been making a strong bid to be an All-Star and it is easy to see why Houston felt comfortable releasing Dwight Howard to clear the way for Capela.
Truth be told, he has a little of young Dwight, in him and his game. Capela averages 17.6 points, 12.9 rebounds and 1.88 blocks per game while posting the second-best PER on the Rockets. He has proven to be the anchor of a defense that greatly needs perimeter improvement, and it is hardly all the fault of Harden as the narrative often goes.
Harden is playing passing lanes well, coming up with 2-plus steals a game, while heading the offensive attack in his usual masterful way. Harden’s averaging 33.9 points and 8.6 assists per game.
Chris Paul has fallen off in a noticeable way, but he has also played through some injuries and is declining as expected as he ages. The Rockets really need a power forward of the defensive mindset, and losing Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is as much to blame for the team’s defensive decline as losing Ariza. Few are factoring in the value of strong defensive role players and the Rockets roster is nearly bereft of such talents now.