With money hungry, ring-chasing players, the NBA has seen its fair share monstrous moves shaking the league to its core. With more blockbuster trades this year than kids trading Bazooka Bubble Gum baseball cards in 50s, which one will have the biggest impact on the playoff-tree this season?
The three biggest seismic shifts were Paul George to OKC, Chris Paul to Houston, and the Cleveland/Boston flip-flop of superstar point guards Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas. While we won’t see such a big splash this season from the Kyrie/Thomas trade, Boston will end up with the better deal of this trade, James and company will still hold the edge come playoff time. Yet, CP3 joining the Houston Rockets is by far the most critical wardrobe change this season because of the immediate impact he will have on their launch code. Providing he stays healthy?
All of the Rockets’ success hangs on the balance of a healthy Chris Paul, because without him they’re back to square one, losing in the playoffs because James Harden is too tired to care.
There’s no denying this move was interesting. Yes, it pairs two perennial All-Stars together, but at first made no sense considering Harden just finished the best season of his career, and first as a point guard, because head coach Mike D’Antoni saw the upside in having Harden control the offense like Steve Nash did in Phoenix.
The question remains: how do two ball-dominant point guards play off each other and not lose efficiency? Simple, you have spurts where each player operates the run-and-gun offense. Not only does this allow both players to get into a rhythm, but it’s also the help each other has been looking for, especially in crunch time, to be more successful.
The problem CP3 had with the Clippers was the same issue Harden dealt with in Houston. Each team depended primarily on the individual to solely run the offense in the final minutes of a game. Not only were they expected to play defense, but they also needed to score 20-points a game and dish out 10-assists in order for their squad to get the win. That’s way too much responsibility for one player to have. But now that they have each other, if one is tired, or struggling to find his rhythm, they can just defer to the other.
With players like Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Ben Gordon, and Harden or Paul (depending on who has the ball at a given time) spaced around the three-point line, the driving lanes open up for two of the best one-on-one players to operate with space while making the drive and kick aspect a more dangerous option for the Rockets.
This duo, in the D’Antoni offense is now the closet thing to the Warriors’ offense. This doesn’t mean that they are close to that level, because Houston is a sorry defensive team, but their offense can keep games close.
This, like every team in the league, hangs in the balance of players staying healthy. Harden has a track record of not getting injured, but we all know CP can’t stay out of street clothes. If these two can not only stay on the floor, but also have the conditioning needed to carry this entire team, then they pose the biggest threat to the Warriors and their repeat.