Chris Paul: James Harden’s Golden Crutch

This NBA season, commentators have gotten accustomed to using gravity to describe the effect dominant offensive players have on the defensive strategy of the opposition.  A dominant post player, for example, will draw an extra defender or two, depending on his dominance, from the wing or the top of the key, which leaves open shooters on the perimeter and de-clutters the lane for opportunistic slashes to the basket, as well as lobs. 

The same can be said for any dominant player, no matter the position. The defense will react and “gravitate” toward him even when they don’t have the ball.

For the past six seasons, weve watched Houston Rockets All-Star guard James Harden set the world ablaze through the NBA regular season.  After averaging 27, 29 and 29.1 points per game in the last three seasons, as well as leading the NBA in assists with 11 per game, Harden is giving us more of what weve been shouting for. A monstrous 31.5 points per game to go with nine assists should be enough to get him that elusive MVP hes missed out on two years straight. 

James Harden’s 60-Point Triple-Double (First in NBA History) | January 30, 2018

James Harden of the Houston Rockets scored 60 points, a career-high and franchise-record, to go along with 11 assists and 10 rebounds for the first ever 60-point triple-double in NBA history. Top Performers Which players owned the night? Catch up on all the top individual performances around the league in the Top Performers series.

In the past, some of my biggest criticism about Harden were his shot selection, which he has largely silenced because hes currently shooting 45 percent per game on 21 shot attempts, and his problem with turning the ball over in very critical situations in the postseason. In addition to that, his defensive efforts were all over the place. One game he would like a man possessed as far as his on-ball effort is concerned, but the next ten games would see him get scorched by individuals with considerably less offensive firepower than he or his MVP candidate peers (Steph Curry and Kevin Durant).  It all appeared like an effort issue.

Because of the aforementioned deficiencies, as well as repeated lapses in the playoffs, I never could show Hardens game the love and respect that many felt it deserved. However, a funny thing happened when Chris Paul joined the team. 

Now it seems as if those problems that were dogging the Houston Rockets ever since The Beardwent down to Houston from Oklahoma City are fading away.  

Chris Paul & James Harden 61 Pts Combined 2018.02.06 at Nets – Harden With 36! | FreeDawkins

Chris Paul & James Harden 61 Pts Combined Feb 6, 2018 | Houston Rockets at Brooklyn Nets – Harden Wit 36! ‘FreeDawkins NBA Video’ –Like And Subscribe For More! Follow me on Twitter – Boxscore – DISCLAIMER – All clips property of the NBA.

Paul, the nine-time NBA All-Star whose stint with the Los Angeles Clippers was the winningest in the usually moribund franchises history, is scoring at a shade under 20 points per game while dishing out nine assists.  Remember when everyone was wondering how it was going to work out with two ball dominant players on a chuck-and-duck type of team? 

Well, first, you can no longer call the Houston Rockets a chuck-and-duck team seeing as though theyre shooting a very good .463 percent from the field while currently ranked 11th in the league in team defense. This may end up being the best coaching job Mike D’Antoni has ever done, barring a first round exit from the playoffs, of course.

Defensively, I noticed Harden actually giving an effort back in preseason. However, I wasnt sure whether it was going to be an ongoing trend. Though hell never be Defensive Player of the Year, its clear that hes giving a far greater effort, more consistently, than he ever has in the past. 

Whats the reason for the successes of the season? Chris Paul, apparently. 

A problem that the Rockets have had in the past is the voice of a veteran down stretch. Though Harden is otherworldly offensively, his leadership skills, while far greater than they were, arent enough to help galvanize teammates night after night. 

With Paul in the locker room, a player who gives his all AND performs at a very high-level night after night, Harden has a crutch the most blinged-out, platinum-plated, diamond-encrusted crutch he could reasonably hope for, in Chris Paul aka the Point God.

Chris Paul Full Highlights 2018.01.10 vs Blazers – 37 Pts, 11 Assists, 6 Rebs, Point-GOD!

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Last year, following another annual meltdown by the Rockets in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs, Sports Illustrated published a piece titled The Inexplicable Meltdown of James Harden in which the author said his poor performance would go down in playoff lore.   

Whether he was physically worn out, confused by the defense or just having a bad shooting night, Harden had three poor playoff performances in a row.

Its interesting to see that Chris Paul, once blamed for not being able to push the L.A. Clippers into the Western Conference Finals, now just might be the reason why the Houston Rockets are the single biggest threat to dethrone the Golden State Warriors in the West, and perhaps the entire league.

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