Holy shit is this the mother of all Free Agency surprises. I went out to play pickup basketball right after confirming the Phil Jackson sacking and returned two hours later to discover that Deryl Morey, Rockets General Manager, pulled the trigger and hit a big target. Chris Paul, a mercurial talent, and an exceptional leader was traded to the Houston Rockets for guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, swingman Sam Dekker, as well as a protected 2018 first-round pick.
The optics from a basketball perspective do not look good. The corollary is this: there exists a similarity in Chris Paul’s and James Harden’s styles; both players like to handle the ball regularly and conduct their team’s offense. The incontrovertible evidence of this is their high usage rates, 34.2 percent for the latter and 24.5 percent for the former which ranked fourth and forty-sixth in the league respectively.
Paul exhibits a penchant for “over-dribbling” the basketball, a trait for which he gets a lot of scorn. Harden, on the other hand, is often castigated for being reckless with the ball. The latter was the initiator and quite often the finisher of Houston’s offensive strategies. Playing alongside Patrick Beverley helped, however, the Los Angeles-bound guard is not the offensive juggernaut his former colleague is.
Chris Paul, a mercurial talent, is a complete upgrade on Beverley and has multiple All-NBA honors to his name. There exists a possibility of Paul helping Harden overcome his perilous turnover situation: Paul can eventually embrace the role of the primary facilitator considering he is the best pure point guard in the league (he averaged 2.8 turnovers per game). Harden, of course, will be asked to play his natural shooting guard position — a role he will not decline.
Giving Paul complete control of the offense is something that might not hurt Harden in the long run since Paul possesses superior mid-range shot making ability. Check out his shot chart from last season:
Chris Paul Shot Chart 2016-17 | StatMuse
Instant answers to your MLB, NBA and NFL questions. Share results with friends and let the stats help tell your story.
A quick breakdown will reveal an amazing 55.2% accuracy from two-point range coupled with a D’Antoni system affable 41.1% clip from three. Paul’s mid-range excellence, I believe, will add more potency to D’Antoni’s coaching system which features multiple three-point barrages and layups. Eric Gordon, the sixth man of the year award winner, is the epitome of the perfect playmaking substitute and will help both marquee guards by supplying elite offensive contributions.
It cannot hurt to think about the robustness Chris Paul adds to Houston’s Free Agency allure — coveted stars such as Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul’s former teammate Blake Griffin, have an incentive to put Houston at the top of their destination lists. Playing with Paul, a rare, valuable opportunity is one worth taking under the right situations; Houston’s “run and gun” philosophy might be this situation.
Also, the move puts Paul in a position to utilize the strengths of Houston big-men Capela and Nene, who unlike former teammate DeAndre Jordan, can hit some free throws in addition to finishing strongly at the rim. Capela made 53.1% of his free throws to go with a 64.3 field goal percentage and Nene posted up 58.9% and 61.7% free-throw and field goal percentages respectively. The latter made a D’Antoni inspired progression to three-point shooting; he knocked down a third of his attempts.
Despite the overwhelming concerns about playmaking responsibilities, the trade does have multiple benefits for the Rockets franchise. Sure, the Rockets might not have the same bench production they enjoyed last season but, Deryl Morey is not done making moves. I trust that the franchise will over time figure out how to accommodate both Paul and Harden.