Rocketing into championship contention

Lachie Abbott Roar Rookie

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    James Harden of the Houston Rockets. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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    As the nuclear arms race of the NBA off season heats up, the Houston Rockets made the biggest acquisition thus far.

    A multiplayer deal with the Los Angeles Clippers sends all-star guard Chris Paul to Mike D’Antoni’s high powered offence in Texas.

    In return, the Clippers received a number of role players, which although helpful to Houston, were ultimately expendable.

    Dogged 3-and-D guard Patrick Beverley is sent to the Staples Center, along with the polished offensive game of Lou Williams and a young stretch four named Sam Dekker.

    Smaller pieces of the deal include DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hillard, Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Wiltjer.

    Plus, a top-three protected 2018 Houston first round draft pick lands in the hands of ‘the other team’ in LA.

    By adding CP3 to pair with James Harden, Houston has the benefit of two all-star guards in a league where small ball is in fashion. The pass-first nature of Paul, along with the ability of Harden to play the two, seems to make the combo work.

    However, the argument could be made that the ball dominance of both will disrupt the offensive flow of the Rockets’ game.

    According to SportVU, Harden had the ball in this hands for 8.9 minutes each game last season. Paul was slightly less at around 7.2 minutes a game.

    With D’Antoni’s seven-seconds-or-less scheme, it is seemingly impossible that together, both will able to mirror their play style and production.

    Add this sharing issue to Paul’s divisive personality and chemistry issues may arise.

    The Michael Jordan culture of winning and irrational competitiveness taught the modern NBA fan that a personality such as Paul’s is a good thing.

    While in many cases this is true, Chris Paul is still the short guy on your lunchtime pickup team who furiously calls plays and yells at guys for taking a break to eat their ham rolls.

    People forget how annoying that guy is.

    Although an NBA game should be taken more seriously, to have this nagging presence screaming at you for his own mistake in the second quarter of a fourth game in five nights is kinda annoying.

    LA Clippers' Chris Paul

    (Wiki Commons)

    Despite ‘The Point God’s’ reputation, Harden seems to be all in at this early stage. Adrian Wojnarowski on Wednesday reported that the two “were determined to play together”.

    However, it isn’t a cold, Thursday night on the road in mid-May just yet and it will be these type of games that show how the two really get on together.

    D’Antoni’s coaching nous will be one factor aiding Chris Paul’s play on the Rockets, as the American-Italian mind likes to stagger minutes between his stars.

    Therefore, Houston will always have an elite playmaker on the floor and both stars will get close to the right amount of touches each. Something the Doc River’s somehow never figured out how to do with the pairing of Blake and CP3.

    Overall, I think this can work as both athletes recognise they need help in order to travel further than the second round. Their high usage rates made it easier for playoff defences to guard them and their teams.

    Harden for example, carried the offensive load for the Rocket’s during the regular season, posting offensive rating numbers of 118 points per 100 possessions. In the playoffs, the one man facilitation on offense, lead to a dip in offensive rating to 111 points per 100 possessions.

    Hopefully, Paul can help out and turn the Rockets into the scary team it should become.

    Terrifyingly enough, General Manager Daryl Morey is not done.

    The analytical GM is loading up on non-guaranteed contracts from other teams in exchange for cash. As Adrian Wojnarowski told us, they are to be, “[used] in the Clippers trade or elsewhere”. With free agency approaching and a spending owner in the wings…

    Anything can happen.

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