IT’S not very often that a star returning from injury is viewed as a bad thing for a team. Off to their fastest start since the 2014-15 season, Houston is rolling right now buoyed by one of the best offenses run by the MVP candidate James Harden. Chris Paul is healthy and ready to contribute again, although there are fears it will upset the apple cart and derail the Rockets early success.
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WHEN the Rockets traded for Chris Paul the sacrificed a lot of their depth and other pieces to acquire him. Through the first 15 games of the season though that hasn’t mattered with other’s picking up the slack left by those who were dealt. One of the big helpers has been Eric Gordon, who is putting up big numbers as Harden’s sidekick early on.
CHRIS Paul’s return is likely to eat into Gordon’s production more than anyone else. Right now Gordon’s usage rate (28.4%) is higher than that of John Wall, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. It’s no secret that Harden needs the ball in his hands and his usage rate of 35.4 the second highest in the league. So Chris Paul (who has a career usage rate of 24%) isn’t going to take a back seat and become a glorified spot-up shooter.
HOWEVER, not all hope is lost. What if I told you that the three-point shot had been their weakness early on. The Rockets take more three’s than any other team with 44.5 attempts a night, and yet they only connect on 34% of long bombs, the 5th worst mark in the league. So far Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza are shooting worse clips from deep than they did a season ago too. Their success has actually come from inside the three-point line, shooting a league-best 58.9% on two-point shots, that has led to Houston having the second highest offensive rating behind Golden State through the early season.
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WITH Paul returning to the fray we know he will eat into players number of touches, it’s inevitable. However, Paul shoots over 75% of his shots for his career from inside the three-point line and demands attention inside the paint. This will likely open up a lot of corner shots for the above-mentioned players and with more uncontested three’s on the menu their percentage is likely to increase. The crafty assist man is used to playing at a slower pace and many fear he won’t be able to keep up. The 3rd fastest team in the league last year, Houston is actually playing slightly slower this year (13th for pace) with lots of other teams opting for the run and gun mentality.
IT will take time for Paul to work his way into this team and it may not translate to wins immediately. Like the struggles thrust upon the new star three in OKC and the Cavaliers current team though, in time superstars tend to work out their issues and develop a winning formula. With Paul’s talents returning to the court in just a few days time the chatter around if the Rockets made the right move continues to grow. CP3 should only help to get open shots for others and keep them shooting a high percentage inside the arc. It may take time, but don’t sleep on Houston continuing their winning ways.
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