This NBA offseason is putting a ton of pressure on stars to make impactful moves in response to Golden State. Jimmy Butler was moved in a proposed trade on draft night, Paul George is still dangling in trade talks, and starting on July 1 this Saturday there will be high bidding for some noteworthy free agents, including Chris Paul, who along with teammate Blake Griffin is reportedly opting out of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets have emerged as the initial suitors for Paul. ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported that the Rockets are looking to clear cap space in an aggressive pursuit of the 9-time All-Star point guard this summer.
Immediately the question becomes how Paul would blend with Rockets star and lead guard James Harden. Here are three fundamental reasons why the idea of becoming teammates should appeal to both Harden and Paul.
In order for any team to be prepared for what the Warriors have assembled, the first priority is simply about talent. The fact of the matter is, without three legitimate star talents on your team, you’re not relevant in the NBA title discussion right now. Harden should be welcoming the idea of Paul with open arms for that reason alone. With the Clippers, Chris Paul has been playing with other big talents, but Harden ranks higher on the stardom scale than Blake Griffin does. Playing alongside a star guard as opposed to a star forward would be a refreshing atmosphere for Paul.
As terrific as Harden was in Mike D’Antoni’s point guard experiment, to relinquish those point guard duties to someone of Chris Paul’s caliber would create a whole new world of opportunity for Harden. According to NBA.com/stats, Harden was most assisted by Clint Capela, his starting center, in the 2016-17 season. Harden’s overwhelming individual responsibility of setting the table, being the main orchestrator, while also having to create his own offense, could be greatly lessened by Paul’s presence.
From Paul’s end, forming an elite duo with Harden in that system has dynamic potential. Paul has also carried a heavy individual load with the Clippers. He’s often been called upon to not just be their point guard and their leader, but their closer in must-score situations. Playing with Harden would absolve him from that lasting burden as he’d be the best scorer Paul has played with in his career.
Forming a backcourt such as this would easily inspire others to consider Houston in the near future. You’d be looking at needing to add one more wing/forward piece in order to have a legitimate big three. If Paul were to leave LA to sign with Houston, he’d likely even need that assurance in order to ensure that he’d be upgrading his situation.
Fit, function, and chemistry play roles in how successful stars will mesh together. I wouldn’t call it a no-brainer for Chris Paul to want to play with James Harden and the Rockets, but the prospect has to be appealing for the simplest of reasons.