Former ASU basketball star James Harden has a new partner in crime

Harden will learn to adjust to playing with a new superstar teammate

Former ASU shooting guard James Harden is one of the most impressive players in the NBA today. Last season, Harden put up career highs in points, rebounds and assists en route to leading the Houston Rockets to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.

After losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs last season, the Rockets decided to shake things up with a blockbuster trade — superstar point guard Chris Paul.

Although it may be tough for Paul and Harden to blend, the unselfishness of Paul and the superstar abilities of Harden will eventually translate into a talented duo.

With the addition of Paul, the Rockets now have the most dynamic backcourt in the entire NBA. Though the nine-time All-Star may be 32 years old, Paul is still a spectacular floor general who plays excellent defense.

"Paul is one of the best teammates in basketball, and Harden was looking for some help this offseason," Evan Massey, Clippers columnist and editor for the Inquisitr, said.

During his tenure in Los Angeles, Paul scored at least 18 points and nine assists per game in every season while leading the NBA in steals per game in three of his six years with the Clippers.

Last season, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni decided to move Harden from shooting guard to point guard. The move worked brilliantly, as Harden finished second in the 2017 MVP balloting

By adding Paul as another elite point guard, it will prove difficult for D’Antoni to get the team's two best players to mesh.

"Finding a way to keep the basketball in both of their hands will not be easy," Massey said, "Harden is much more effective with the ball in his hands, which is key for the Rockets' championship hopes. Paul can play off the ball, but finding a balance will be important."

Although Paul is injured at the moment, the Rockets are still going to have to figure out how to play Harden and Paul at the same time. With only one basketball on the court to share, it will be tough for the Rockets to try to maximize the potential of both of these star players when both players have a ball-oriented style of play.

"Losing a talent like CP3 is extremely difficult to recover from," Massey said.

One solution for D’Antoni is to stagger Paul and Harden’s minutes so that at least one of the two are on the court at all times. With either Paul or Harden on the court, the Rockets have an elite scorer, ball handler and facilitator playing for the entire game.

A second solution for Houston is to run Harden back at his old position as shooting guard. As a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden was a sixth man who found himself playing off of the ball more often than not. 

To go along with his familiarity of playing off of the ball, Harden was also a more efficient three-point shooter on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, shooting 39.6 percent on catch-and-shoot threes versus 34.7 percent on three-point shots overall.

Similar to Harden, Paul was also an excellent catch-and-shoot three-point shooter last season. The former Clippers point guard shot 45 percent on catch-and-shoot threes in his final season as a Clipper. 

"Both players will figure out how to play with each other, and the Rockets will be a threat come playoff time," Massey said.

Last season, the Rockets were an entertaining, high-scoring team, but had limited potential. This season with Paul on board, the potential is limitless for the Rockets.


Reach the columnist at kokiriley3@gmail.com and on twitter @Kokiriley.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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