The ONLY Way Russell Westbrook & James Harden Can WORK Together On The Rockets (Ft. NBA Trade)
Russell Westbrook was traded to the Rockets and is with James Harden, but how will Westbrook and Harden work? #NBA #Westbrook #Harden
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So Russ and Harden are on the same team after 7 years. The Rockets traded Chris Paul, 2 protected first round picks, and 2 first round pick swaps. Yes, both are extremely talented, but this is now a pairing of two of the highest usage players in the NBA so I wanted to break all this down and show how this can all work out.
Westbrook in 2016-17 with 41.65%, Harden this past season with 40.47%, and Westbrook in 2014-15 with 38.37%. But those came in seasons where the entire offense relied heavily on those two guys when they had no help. In this past season, Chris Paul and Clint Capela both missed a significant chunk of games consecutively in the middle of the season when James Harden was doing it all including a 60 point triple double. This year, Russell Westbrook’s usage rate was 30.1% which is still the 10th highest in the league. Russ and Harden were number 1 and 2 respectively in assist to pass ratio, meaning they were really passing for that assist. This is James Harden and Russ with 9 assists.
Now let’s take a look back at how Harden and Westbrook played together on the Thunder years ago because it actually explains a lot about the players they became today. Russell Westbrook was the starting point guard for the Thunder and James Harden was the 6th man that played the shooting guard in 2012, but Russ was drafted as a combo guard that the Thunder believed could be converted to a true point guard. Thunder chose to draft James Harden with the 3rd overall pick. Whenever Westbrook, Harden, and Durant were on the floor at the same time, Harden was more of the point guard and Westbrook was more of the shooting guard. That brings me to what Russell Westbrook and James Harden have to do, switch positions offensively, making Harden the point guard and Russell the shooting guard.
At first, it seems radical until we realize that James Harden has essentially playing point guard for the Rockets since 2016 when D’Antoni gave him the keys to the offense. But Harden loved playing that facilitator role with options who could consistently get it done. When he was the only point guard in 2016-2017 on the Rockets, Harden averaged a career high 11.2 assists along with 29 points. Harden, in his natural state is a great passer and uses his ability to score to draw defenses to kick it to open shooters.
Russell Westbrook on the other hand has always been a shooting guard that learned to play point guard. When Harden was on the court, Westbrook became a slashing weapon that Harden could find and if Harden couldn’t find anything, he would give it up to Westbrook or Durant. But Russell Westbrook at his core is a slashing guard. While Harden is more calculated and shifty, often making a lob to the roller or a pass to the open 3 point man even before he gets into the paint, Russ likes to use his speed and strength to get into the paint and make the pass from the teeth of the defense. He can revert back to 2012 Westbrook in terms of all the cutting. Russ will have the choice of making the pass to the corner 3 or taking it himself.Russ also likes transition offense and so with him grabbing boards and running out, that can help the Rockets get easier points and more importantly, give Harden possessions off. Learn from the Warriors who love to capitalize off misses.
Now that Harden’s become a guy capable of scoring consistently in the isolation, it might be hard to see him revert to that, but you gotta keep in mind that Harden only went to this heavy isolation because Chris Paul was injured and just not as effective compared to the 2017-18 season when the Rockets on 65 games. People said that Chris Paul and James Harden wouldn’t work because of how ball dominant each one is, but they meshed because they developed a chemistry, going to the hot hand whether it was them or a guy like Eric Gordon. CP3 and Harden would take turns running the offense and it worked. Along with that there were staggered minutes and rotations that basically gave each player their own time and allowed the Rockets to always have an All-Star guard on the floor. While Russ was already slightly adjusting for Paul George, it is reasonable to think that Westbrook would adjust more for Harden. Let’s not forget, these two are extremely and I mean extremely talented. Westbrook is an upgrade from last year Chris Paul. I know there are issues with sharing the ball, and with clutch situations. Westbrook has been horrific in the clutch and Harden has been inconsistent in the playoffs and clutch. But these two have had success with each other in the playoffs. Yes, they had Kevin Durant, but Russ and Harden were no slouches. They can work if Russ converts more to the shooting guard and Harden as the 1. T But what do you think?