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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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • June 30th 2017 @ 2:49pm
      Mike Julz said | June 30th 2017 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

      The Rockets were probably 2 notches behind Warriors, 1 behind Spurs. With this trade, they’re now a notch up, but still trails the Warriors in terms of fastbreaks and supreme shooting and ball movement. The bench tho could be the difference. Maybe Paul can recreate the Lop city in Houston?!. But this is good for Rockets.

      • June 30th 2017 @ 4:06pm
        Lachie Abbott said | June 30th 2017 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

        Yeah I still don’t think anyone can ever beat the Warriors. I don’t think I’ve every seen a superteam mesh so well together like they have. Still, Houston might make it a more competitive playoffs.

        • July 6th 2017 @ 1:33am
          express34texas said | July 6th 2017 @ 1:33am | ! Report

          HOU actually looks worse to me now. Paul is old and injury-proned and despite his reputation as a great leader, he has never made it past the 2nd round despite playing with at least 1 other AS and often 2 other AS for most of his career. HOU loses a lot of depth, firepower, and defense with this trade. Maybe if Paul was younger, but this seems like a bad trade to me.

          GS is obviously way too good anyway, but just don’t like this trade by HOU. The main reason why the 4 GS stars mesh so well is because they complement each other very well. Curry is more suited to a #2 role, KD is obviously the alpha dog, Thompson suited to a #2/#3 role at best while playing strong defense, Green suited to a #3/#4 role. And all 4 of them are above average defenders at worse, while 3 of them are all-nba defense caliber other than Curry, who’s still a decent defender. Plus, the rest of their cast is ridiculously awesome.

          • July 9th 2017 @ 4:01pm
            Lachie Abbott said | July 9th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

            Well firstly, Curry is not a two guard. He controls the tempo of a game so well that it would be ludicrous to put him off the ball, despite his shooting prowess. I understand your depth argument and in basically any other sport I would agree with you. However, the NBA is a star-based league, and one excellent player is better than 3 average ones. I don’t agree that Houston loses defence. Paul is a top 3 perimeter defender in my eyes. The NBA is position-less now. The more play makers on a team the better.

            • July 10th 2017 @ 6:53am
              mushi said | July 10th 2017 @ 6:53am | ! Report

              I think he mean #2 player on the team rather than position, but I suppose that means there was no player alive worthy of being a #1 player on an NBA team for two years…

              • July 18th 2017 @ 12:14pm
                Lachie Abbott said | July 18th 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

                Ahh that makes more sense..kinda. Since when is a two-time MVP not suited to being a number one player? That’s just ridiculous.

          • July 10th 2017 @ 6:50am
            mushi said | July 10th 2017 @ 6:50am | ! Report

            Whilst I think they’ve only upgraded to a punchers chance, it’s still a major upgrade.

            Depth – they trade a major upgrade for ~30-32 minutes, plus whatever they can get with the two exemptions they can use for 25 minutes of Lou Williams (which they turned into P.J. Tucker).

            Now Lou was great coming off the bench with the Lakers – but he was perfectly average on offence for the Rockets, and they already have a better second unit guard in Gordon, and he’s typical well below average on D.

            Now they’ve used the MLE for a big wing/forward in Tucker you have to say they’ve upgraded the bench too (if your bench has to follow NBA rules and also try to stop the others scoring).

            So I think depth isn’t a concern.

            Defence- Paul is one of the best guys at his position in the league on that side. Really only Rubio could say he’s been consistently better. Beverley is good but he has not been as good a defender as Paul.

            That’s before the Williams for Tucker swap which is such a huge upgrade on D (and a predictable type of use of their MLE)

            They are defensively so much better off that it’s like being concerned that water isn’t going to be an upgrade in “wetness” over desert sands.

            Firepower – Paul is such a massive upgrade in firepower that this is a head scratcher. Williams was average at Houston, and he has a hit and miss career as it really depends on his roster fit as to how successful he is offensively, and Beverly has always been a low volume spot up shooter who doesn’t mess up.

            I love Beverly – but scores at a clip of 11-12 points per 36 mintues at 42% shooting. Unless Lou Williams is now really a time travelling Pete Maravich wearing a Lou Williams flesh I can’t see how they lost firepower here.

    • July 3rd 2017 @ 6:55pm
      Larry Seely said | July 3rd 2017 @ 6:55pm | ! Report

      It was a great move by Houston to get one of the best point guards in the game, but until the Rockets get some help in the paint, this squad won’t contend against the likes of Golden State, Cleveland, San Antonio, and Boston.

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