Will the Super Team in Houston Work?
The Houston Rockets traded for Chris Paul last week and only gave up two experienced NBA players. Sending a smattering of end of the bench guys and a back-end 1st round pick is a pittance for a top 3 point guard. In the NBA, any chance to acquire a superstar has to be taken but this particular pairing doesn’t seem like a perfect fit at all. Both CP3 and James Harden are ball dominant players used to being the alpha on their respective teams and will now share the floor and one ball. Houston seems bent on creating a superteam to compete against the Warriors Marvel Avengers level super squad but seem to be acquiring the wrong pieces.
Harden was moved to point guard last season and unleashed in Mike D’Antoni’s free-flowing system which netted Harden historic offensive numbers of 29 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds per game with a PER of 27.4. The Beard’s usage rate of 34.2 which was 4th highest in the league. His game is based on getting to the rim for layups or fouls leading to free throws and taking step back 3’s.
Chris Paul is all about controlling the flow of a game as a classic floor general. His usage rate of 24.5 last season was ranked 46th behind the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Jabari Parker and Enes Kanter. His overall stats of 18 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds were exactly in line with his career averages. Paul lives to probe the defense and hit mid-range jumpers, which are kryptonite to D’Antoni’s vaunted offensive system of layups and threes. He is still solid on defense and is an absolute upgrade from Pat Beverley as an all-around player but seems a strange fit next to the Beard.
Recent NBA chatter also involves Carmelo Anthony being rumored to want a trade to the Rockets as well. This would give the Rockets three legitimate superstars with superior offensive firepower to vaporize competition in the West. One could easily envision this triumvirate netting 130 points per game raining jumpers against helpless defenses. This particular Big-3 had a combined usage rate last season of 87.3 leaving very few touches for Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson. Houston fans should be excited about the offensive possibilities but historical reality says that these three players could not possibly win a championship for one very sound reason: Defense.
NBA champion squads play elite level defense and James Harden & Carmelo Anthony are regarded as two of the worst defensive players at their positions. Chris Paul is a spectacular individual defender and Clint Capela is a rising defensive center just finding his place as a rim running and shot blocking big. A starting 5 of Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Carmelo Anthony and Clint Capela looks like two pluses, one average defender and two serious minus defenders can in no way compete against a Warriors world-beater two-way squad. If the NBA is an arms race the Rockets only have the ability to attack offensively with no hope of offering resistance.
Big names are exciting for NBA fans but the reality of team-ups usually produces less than stellar results. Only if a superteam commits to being a defensive force can they begin to think of themselves as legitimate contenders. No NBA team with a defensive rating outside of the top 7 has won a championship since 2005, thus is the reality of aspirants to the crown. Adding as many superstars names to a team as possible is exciting to fans but the reality is rings are only a dream unless the team commits to being a top-5 defense.
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