Does Chris Paul Fit With The Rockets?

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Chris Paul, Otto Porter Jr.” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Houston Rockets and L.A. Clippers have agreed to a deal that sends Chris Paul to Houston. Here’s a break down of the trade:

Rockets Receive: Chris Paul

Clippers Receive: Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, and a 2018 1st round pick.

From a pure talent standpoint, getting Chris Paul is a good move by Houston. He’s an All-Star point guard, who even at the age of 32, is still one of the best in the league. Pairing him with another All-Star guard in James Harden gives them one of the most talented backcourts in the league. This pair will look nice on paper, but will it work out on the court?

My instant reaction to this trade, is that Chris Paul doesn’t fit with James Harden. Both players are ball dominant guards. Chris Paul has been the man his entire career, while James Harden has been that guy in his time with the Rockets.

James Harden had the best season of his career this past year. What allowed him to do that? His move to point guard. This move resulted in him leading the league in assists (11.2). Chris Paul is coming off a season in which he averaged 9.2 assists. The worst assist average of his career is 7.8, which came in his rookie season. The Rockets acquiring Chris Paul makes me wonder if this means moving James Harden back to shooting guard. All indications are that he will make that move back to his original position.

Although Harden has been productive as a shooting guard throughout his career, his production in his one season as point guard can’t be denied. He led his team to 55 wins, ending as the number three seed in the Western Conference. He became the only player in NBA history to score 2,000 points and assist on 2,000 points in a single season. Now that Chris Paul is in the picture, will Harden be willing to defer to him as the primary ball handler?

There’s no questioning the Rockets need for another superstar player. James Harden had to carry the load all by himself. I just don’t think Chris Paul is the kind of superstar they needed. A player like Paul George would have been better suited to play with Harden. George isn’t the primary ball handler, which would keep Harden where he’s played his best basketball.

When you think about the best backcourts in the NBA, who comes to mind? Here are the first three that came to mine:

  • Steph Curry and Klay Thompson
  • Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum
  • John Wall and Bradley Beal

What do they all have in common? What makes them so effective? Both guards are stars, but only one guard is the primary ball handler. I think there’s a chance that Chris Paul and James Harden could join this list, but they have to be willing to make it work. If Harden tries to do what he did last year, while Chris Paul tries to do what he’s done his entire career, I don’t see it going well.

The responsibility to make this work falls on the reigning Head Coach of the Year, Mike D’Antoni. It was his idea to move James Harden to point guard, which worked out very well. My guess is that he had at least something to do with the Rockets acquiring Chris Paul, meaning he probably has a plan in place for the two to work together.

From a talent standpoint, this is great. From a fit standpoint, I’m not so sure. Only time will tell us if this was a smart move by the Rockets. This is just another crazy addition to the 2017 NBA offseason, likely with many more to follow.

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