5 Things the Rockets Must Do Post All-Star Break to Be a Serious Contender
3. Incorporate Omer Asik.
It appears as if the Turkish backup center who was so unhappy about the Howard signing will remain a Rocket for now. Some of that has to do with the Rockets desire to maintain post defense for 48 minutes. The $15 million balloon payment that Rockets owe Asik next season might be the other reason. With the team unable to come up with a suitable trade, Asik will be stuck here and it seems he has accepted his new role for now. Not only can he provide defense they lack when Howard is out, but he can help cut down on Howard's minutes as they head down the stretch and into the playoffs.
2. Cut down on bad turnovers.
The Rockets are second in the league in turning the ball over. This is not surprising considering they are also one of the top teams in the league in possessions and in fast break points. Their breakneck pace will frequently lead to turnovers, but it also leads to easy baskets. The tradeoff, the stats say, is worth it. Still, the dumb turnovers are a problem. Many that came from not knowing teammates' tendencies have gone by the wayside, but they still make ill-advised passes and make some ridiculous mistakes at times. The team can likely live with 14 or even 15 turnovers on most nights, but they have to cut down on the games with 20-plus.
1. Defend the perimeter.
Without question, the biggest weakness for the Rockets is guarding players outside the paint and the vast majority of the responsibility for that weakness falls on the shoulders of Harden and Jeremy Lin. Both play big minutes at the guard spots and neither are particularly good defensively, though they have improved as the season has gone on. Harden still maddeningly swipes at opponents as they drive by him. There is no lack of effort, however. Both Lin and Harden work hard on defense, they just don't always move their feet and get caught out of position too often. One area they have improved in is three point defense. Their close outs on shooters have gotten much better, but they have to stop guards from penetrating and forcing their big men to cover. It leads things like foul trouble, easy shots and giving up offensive rebounds. Close down some of that and they will be a formidable opponent, particularly in this guard-centric Western Conference.