When Kevin Durant altered the NBA’s balance of power with his performance this year as a member of the world champion Warriors, many wondered what the serious contenders – Cleveland, Houston, San Antonio and Boston – would do via trades and free agency to inch closer to Golden State’s level.
Faced with a supreme dynasty at the early stages of what could be an indomitable reign, players and teams will need to take some extreme measures to even give themselves a puncher’s chance against this juggernaut Golden State crew.
Today, we got the first major tectonic shift that measured high on the Richter scale when the Rockets and Clippers worked out a deal that would send point guard extraordinaire Chris Paul to Houston in exchange for guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, forwards Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell and a 2018 first-round draft pick, among other considerations.
CP3 averaged 18 points, 9.2 assists, five rebounds, and two steals for the Clippers last season and has consistently been one of the leagues best point guards for over a decade.
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Houston posted the third-best record in the NBA last season with Harden averaging 29.7 points and a league-leading 11.2 assists, orchestrating head coach Mike DAntonis Seven Seconds or Less offense with flair and panache.
Fans who understand what a pairing of Harden and Paul can accomplish under the tutelage of head coach D’Antoni have to be excited. If you recall the magic he worked with fringe players such as Jeremy Lin and Raymond Felton, and of course those incredible seasons with Steve Nash in Phoenix, can you imagine what he can cook up with The Beard and CP3 in the same backcourt?
Some people can’t conceive how pairing Paul with Harden is going to work, considering that they’re both ball-dominant. Last season, both of them ranked in the league’s top seven in terms of time of possession, with Harden and Washington’s John Wall being the league leaders.
But this shouldn’t concern you, because the backcourts that dominate the ball most in the NBA – LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan in Toronto and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in Portland, all had some modicum of success last year.
Paul and Harden are excellent when they’re off the ball, so the silly debate about who’ll be bringing the ball up is nonsensical. Though Paul is seen as the consummate floor general, he’s also adept at being a combo guard that can score off catch-and-shoot, along with creating his own shot whenever the need arises.
And if you don’t know what makes D’Antoni special as an offensive mind, you’re probably wondering how he can fit these pieces together.
I wouldn’t be concerned with that, as he’ll incorporate ways to utilize both players within the frenetic architecture of his fast-paced offense. And by having two of the league’s best point guards, Harden and Paul will be free to share the load with one another while keeping each other fresh.
From the perspective of folks who appreciate great guard play, Houston now takes the court with two of the games funkiest offensive orchestrators.
The ball movement and secondary playmaking promises to be bananas. And while the average fan is out here screaming about who will have the ball and run things in crunch time, you better believe that Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich are having nightmares about Chris Paul’s murderous pick-and-roll skills on one side of the floor with Harden poised to work his own pick-and-roll ridiculousness crosscourt.
James Harden Full Highlights 2017 Playoffs R1 Game 1 vs Thunder – 37 Pts, 9 Assists, 7 Rebs, 3 Stls!
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The Rockets took another step forward while the Warriors close their eyes and play, “Red light, green light, 1,2,3!”
Harden got bashed after his baffling and underwhelming performance in the 114-75 beatdown that Houston suffered at the hands of the Spurs in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
On the night when the Rockets needed him at the height of his powers, he just didn’t have it, as if the collective weight of needing to make every pass and create every scoring opportunity for both him and his teammates caused the worst recent stink bomb of a wretched performance this side of Leslie Jones’ screaming her way through a dreadful performance as the host of this weekend’s BET Awards.
Just like New Edition deserved better than Jones being reincarnated as Sam Kinison on their special night, Rockets fans deserved better than Harden playing like J.J. Evans in an NBA Playoffs closeout game, especially after the remarkable season that garnered him MVP consideration.
But putting him on the court with Chris Paul alleviates the burden of him being Houston’s sole controller, and the dynamic and unique offensive energy and creativity that they bring should make them one of the best and most exciting backcourt duos the NBA has ever seen. In terms of the here and now, they’re right up there with LeBron and Kyrie and Steph and Klay.
The free agency orgy has just begun. But Houston was the first to make a loud and bold statement.
With the addition of Chris Paul, they got better. With more moves yet to be made, we’ll see how the other contenders respond.
But two things as far as the Rockets are concerned are now certain. Mike D’Antoni’s has the best backcourt he’s ever had to work his magic with, and Houston will approach it’s greatest level of relevance since Hakeem The Dream was roaming the paint.