When Chris Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets in June, it didn’t take long for the jokes and memes to fly. While both Paul and James Harden were up there with the best of the league last season, they were each the primary ball handler for their respective teams, and sharing the ball wasn’t really their style. Many weren’t sure how this experiment would go. Questions arose as to whether or not two players who are so used to having the ball in their hands at all times would be capable of sharing it with one another.
Houston Rockets Backcourt Duo is a Match Made in Heaven
A Delayed Start
There was a bit of a delay in the Rockets’ grand experiment. Paul got hurt in the team’s season-opening win over the Golden State Warriors, forcing him to miss Houston’s next 14 games. While the Rockets were adequate, going 10-4 during that span, it was still unclear what would happen when Paul returned to the lineup, and whether these two All-Stars would play well together. Twelve games (and 12 consecutive wins) later, any doubts are fading away. Not only are the Rockets decimating their opponents – they’re winning by an average of 16.9 points per game during the current streak – but their two stars are playing like themselves, and dominating in the process. Since CP3 has returned, he’s averaged 18.2 points and 9.4 assists per game, while Harden has not missed a beat, scoring 32.4 points per game and dishing out 8.1 assists.
But racking up numbers doesn’t always necessitate success in the win column – just ask the Oklahoma City Thunder. This partnership has worked so well in the early going because Paul and Harden aren’t just being scorers, or passers, but true playmakers.
Bringing the Team Together
The success of the Rockets’ supporting cast is a very good indication of how Harden and Paul have been able to get others involved. In Houston’s Dec. 11 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, sharpshooter Eric Gordon scored 27 points while making 5-of-6 from three-point range, and Clint Capela finished with a career-high 28 points on 14 shots. When you have role players hitting shots, it takes some of the pressure off the stars to produce. It allows the stars to simply do what they do best – make plays.
That’s not to say that the stars can’t still take over games. Paul went on a 10-0 scoring run by himself in the third quarter against the Pelicans. Harden had 14 assists in the first half of the game alone. The Rockets traded for a player who’s not only a good shooter, but knows how to spread the wealth. It’s now paying off not only for Harden, but for everyone else as well.
Just the Beginning
The scary thing is that Harden and Paul have only played together for 12 games this season – all wins. It will be interesting to see what chemistry develops between the two as the season goes on. So far, the duo of Paul and Harden is making a strong case for the title of best backcourt in the NBA.
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