The combination of Russell Westbrook and James Harden is going to be a must-watch next season. Not just because they’re two former MVPs teaming up but also to see how they mesh together. Their styles of play are not two that you would immediately think can coexist which means the pressure is on Coach Mike D’Antoni to get creative on his approach to their offense.
Westbrook and Harden aren’t the same two players that helped lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to an NBA Finals appearance back in 2012. They’ve gotten a lot better and have both reached personal success in their own right, piling up the stat sheet and winning MVP awards.
They’ve led their own teams and are now teaming up which means sacrifice is necessary. D’Antoni’s offense is known for its stagnant tendencies reliant on the heroics of Harden. Despite their regular-season success, the Rockets offense has faltered when needed most.
When you think about how the Rockets tend to play, Chris Paul actually fits better than Westbrook. Playing alongside Harden, you want guys who can catch and shoot at an efficient clip and that’s been the downfall of Westbrook as of late. In his past two seasons, he has shot below 30 percent from behind the arc which has to get better if Houston is going to be successful.
One thing that alarms me is D’Antoni’s mindset going into next season. On a recent episode of the WOJ Pod, D’Antoni mentioned that he didn’t think that he needed to change “much” offensively.
Houston’s Mike D’Antoni on The Woj Pod pic.twitter.com/xVFySpS1aB
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 16, 2019
Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
The Rockets have gotten bounced two years in a row at the hand of the Golden State Warriors deep in the playoffs. While the Warriors are not the juggernaut that they once were, the West has gotten a lot more competitive. The road to the Finals is going to be much tougher in this upcoming season. To say that the Rockets don’t need to change much is astonishing to me, especially when it hasn’t granted you much success.
Harden doesn’t seem to be nervous due to his belief that their individual talent will help them work it out.
James Harden (@JHarden13)says he & Russell Westbrook (@russwest44) don't have to change their games to make this work:"When u have talent like that it works itself out..Throughout the season u figure things out..U got guys that are willing to sacrifice,it always works itself out" pic.twitter.com/WWDiLqAbsI
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) July 19, 2019
However, in my opinion, the pressure is on D’Antoni to utilize the strengths of Westbrook. Yeah, they’re both talented respectively but you still have to be creative in figuring out how to orchestrate those individual talents into a well-composed symphony.
Westbrook makes his bread and butter in transition, in the mid-post area (which D’Antoni despises), and also in pick and rolls. How will he blend that in with Harden’s style of play that encompasses a slower pace and a lot of ball watching? The pressure is on and the stakes are high for a team who has come up short in multiple years.