The Rockets acquired star point guard Chris Paul via trade from the Clippers on Wednesday. Here are the five biggest questions for the new-look Rockets.
The Houston Rockets made a power move and acquired Chris Paul via trade from the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. They sent seven players, a top-three protected 2018 first-round pick, and cash to the Clippers in exchange for Paul. It is a mountainous deal that some already believe has put Houston in position to challenge the Golden State Warriors. Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey acknowledged its a “weapons race” right now to catch the league’s elite. His comments suggest there is more to come.
Multiple reports indicate Houston’s intention to trade for All-Star forward Paul George. There is also chatter about Carmelo Anthony should he secure a buyout from the New York Knicks. Morey may very well be plotting the next move. But will his first power play bear fruit? James Harden just had an MVP-caliber season running the offense. Houston won 55 games and had the NBA’s second-best offensive rating while Harden led the league in assists. There is no doubt things will change next season, but for better or worse? Here are the five biggest questions for Paul and his new team.
5. Can they succeed with a “two-quarterback” system?
So does this mean James Harden is no longer the point guard? The guy averaged 11.2 assists per game last season. Now, he’s probably going to lose his job. Head coach Mike D’Antoni believes there is no such thing as “too many point guards.” And he’s not wrong. But for these circumstances only time will tell if he’s correct. Let’s examine the particulars for the Coach of the Year’s new “problem.”
Harden and Paul ranked second and sixth respectively in usage percentage during the 2016-17 campaign. Both players also finished in the top eight in touches and time of possession. Historically, Paul is a methodical point guard who dribbles the air out of the ball while directing traffic. Conversely, Harden is an attacking scorer who collapses the defense and kicks out to open teammates. Both guys love to operate in pick-and-rolls. Neither player operates exceptionally well away from the ball. So how will D’Antoni reconstruct the offense to integrate Paul?
D’Antoni has experience coaching one ball-dominant player, but not two. He was wildly successful with Steve Nash running his fast-paced attack. But Nash did not share reps. Who will D’Antoni trust with the ball in crunch time? Paul has a steady hand and owns the best career assist-to-turnover ratio in NBA history (4.1). Harden is far more susceptible to errant passes. He committed a league-high 464 turnovers last season. That’s 26 more than Russell Westbrook who finished second and 142 more than John Wall who placed third in the same category.
Houston has a problem on its hands. We’ll have to wait and see how to classify it this season.