IF you haven’t heard a pair of trades shook up the makeup of the NBA this offseason. Those trades, of course, involved Chris Paul moving to the Houston Rockets and Paul George switching conferences to become an Oklahoma City Thunder player. Bringing another superstar into the fray of your team can sometimes cause more headaches than accounted for and these new duos will take time to learn how to play alongside each other. Who’s ready to make the sacrifices necessary to contribute to the ultimate goal of winning a championship?
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Harden and Paul
THE biggest adjustment these two will have to make next season is playing without the ball in their hands. Both ranked inside the top four in assist percentage last year with Harden (2nd, 50.7%) and Paul (4th, 46.8%) finishing first and fourth respectively for assists a game as well. Their combined usage rate last year of 58.6% is higher than any pair who have gone on to join forces after boasting assist percentage’s over 30 in league history. Just because they are both primary ball handlers and dominant playmakers doesn’t mean they can’t co-exist though. The unique pair are both great three point shooters, providing the option to space out the floor. Harden has shot 35.8% from downtown over the past three seasons while Paul has gone at a 39.3% clip
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THERE will be growing pains as they learn to play alongside one another, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. If things don’t go according to plan in year one, there is a potential future together too with Paul owning the option to still sign a massive extension worth five years and roughly $205 million. And we haven’t even talked about the potential addition of Carmelo Anthony into the organisation, which would then equate to fewer touches again for both Harden and Paul. In an NBA world where everyone is just trying to keep up with the Warriors, you feel as though Harden and Paul alone won’t get them over the hump, but the Rockets may have another move in them.
Westbrook and George
ON paper bringing in Paul George to play alongside Russell Westbrook is a much more traditional fit, with George showcasing he can play off the ball in the past. After Westbrook posted the highest usage rate in NBA history last year, defying the expectations and possibilities of what one player can do in 82 games. People are now questioning if he can relinquish some control and provide George with enough shots and touches to keep him happy. Those same people seem to have forgotten that Westbrook has played with a star scoring forward in the past and those two still managed to work the majority of the kinks out to win a shit load of games. Regardless of Westbrooks pedal to the metal mentality, he knows that he needs another star sidekick if he is to be successful in the NBA. I’m pretty sure he’ll be happy to drive and kick to a wide open Paul George instead of Andre Roberson.
THE OKC Thunder are handcuffed to the realistic possibility that neither Russell Westbrook or Paul George will be playing for them next season. With potentially only a year together things will need to click right away if the Thunder are to retain both superstars. On a recent podcast with Woj, George talked about how winning a chip will dictate all his decision making heading forward. If they can develop something in OKC then there is a chance that the two of them will commit long term to the Thunder, but they need to mesh perfectly. I think now that George is playing alongside another star he will flourish, mainly because he doesn’t have to act as the primary and only scoring option for his squad.
NOW that Westbrook and Harden have great running mates it’s unlikely that they will put up the same numbers and usage rate. It’s not impossible that they will still be in the MVP discussion though as they have running Neither Russ or Harden will compete for MVP if their newest weapons can fit straight into the system and benefit their win totals. I think that the Rockets will have a better record, largely because they have the better team though. The OKC duo will have the better season though, which may make it tough for Paul George to walk away next year. Either way, the two best players last year will have to adapt their ways to succeed with their now All-Star teammates.
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