The Houston Rockets may run a three-guard lineup more often than they did last year, featuring James Harden and Chris Paul with Eric Gordon.
In a recent episode of The Lowe Post, ESPN’s Zach Lowe speculated that they’ll play them more often “without the security blanket” of Trevor Ariza. Now that he and fellow frontcourt stable Luc Mbah a Moute are no longer on the roster, perhaps they can utilize the scoring these three can provide.
During the regular season, the trio was on the court at the same time for 148 minutes. That averaged out to just 4.6 minutes per appearance, which showed it wasn’t a priority for the Rockets.
Houston, however, scored 134.7 points per 100 possessions during these situations. The Rockets also allowed 105.8 points per 100, outscoring their opponents by 28.9 points per 100. Their true shooting percentage (68.5%) was the best among all three-man lineups that played at least 100 minutes together for the squad.
Mike D’Antoni clearly made a decisive change during the postseason and opted to use the three guards together more often. They played 137 minutes together, averaging 9.1 minutes on the court at the same time per appearance. The group was not as efficient as they were during the regular season but still outscored opponents.
Perhaps the best two players to complement the three guards are big man PJ Tucker and forward Clint Capela. While both Ariza and Mbah a Moute were instrumental to Houston’s success, this five-man collection can thrive without them when needed most.
They played just 24 minutes together during the regular season but appeared in 20 minutes during the playoffs. When they were on the court at the same time, they were able to outscore their opponents by an impressive 18.7 points per 100 in the postseason.
USA TODAY Sports Media Group’s Kelly Iko dubbed this grouping the Polk Street 5, a lineup best suited to play against the “Hamptons 5” for the Golden State Warriors.
Here’s what Iko wrote about this particular personnel grouping (via The Rockets Wire):
“The thinking behind this is obvious—if having two ball handlers/shooters/scorers is already devastating, imagine what adding a third could yield. Gordon is no Harden or Paul, but his unique skill set is at least a lite version of the aforementioned duo. He’s able to score in different ways, capable of attacking off the dribble and getting to the paint, and he was third in the league in three-pointers made.”
Gordon was typically used as a plug-in to provide offense and playmaking when either Harden or Paul are resting. That’s likely how we will see him most often again during the regular season. This will help keep the team as fresh as possible in their pursuit of greatness.
But when rotations shrink in the postseason and winning matters most, we can expect to see the three-guard set. It matches up well against the Warriors, who often play small-ball. It will also match up well against the Lakers, who may have LeBron James playing as their big man to end games.