While Mike D’Antoni and James Harden’s offensive wizardry gets all the credit, a big reason for Houston’s 65-win season is the improvement the Rockets have made on the defensive side of the ball. Houston switches more than any team in the league (Golden State is second) and the switch-heavy scheme is a brainchild of assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik who D’Antoni appointed as the team’s “Defensive Coordinator.” In 2015-16, the season before Bzdelik’s arrival, Houston ranked as the 21st best defense in the league. The Rockets improved to 16th in Bzdelik’s first year in charge of the defense and have leapt all the way to 6th this season. Below is a great portrait of Bzdelik, a basketball lifer who is using many of the lessons he learned in four decades of coaching to give the Rockets their best chance at a title in 25 years.
“Men like Jeff, who spend the early part of their career in the NBA as either personnel scouts or advance scouts, they spend so much time watching basketball,” Riley says. “Not only live but on tape and video, that they build up the greatest reservoir of knowledge about all kinds of offenses, all kinds of defenses, all kinds of concepts, and how to play. They just see so much. Jeff has developed some great ideas, and I think you’re seeing that right now in Houston.”
For more on the Rockets D/Bzdelik:
-Bzdelik builds reputation one stop at a time (LINK)
-How the Rockets built a defense good enough to win a NBA championship (LINK)
-D’Antoni and Bzdelik are the true heroes of the Rockets season (LINK)