By: Rahat Huq
My favorite darkhorse is Houston. Can you even imagine Hakeem Olajuwon running the pick-and-roll with James Harden in Mike D'Antoni's offense? Hakeem dominated the '80s, but a wide-open game would make him even more unfair, and that's before you factor in Harden. That pick-and-roll alone, and that tandem, would be so unstoppable that it puts the Rockets in the conference finals almost by default. Apologies to Karl Malone on the Jazz, Bob McAdoo on the Clippers, and even Duncan and Kawhi. Nobody is touching Hakeem and Harden.
This was a fun thought experiment by Andrew Sharp in adding the best player in franchise history to each current NBA team. Aside from adding Wilt to the Warriors, Sharp seems to think Hakeem and Harden would be the team to beat in this alternate universe. But how exactly would it work? The defense of course would vault into the top 10 as Olajuwon would expand upon Clint Capela's shot blocking without suffering from the same problems plaguing Houston's current crop of bigs. I don't really need to elaborate much upon the potential impact on this team defensively of possibly the greatest big man defender in league history.
But would James willingly defer to Olajuwon in the post during critical moments? We know from Hakeem's statements these past few years in mentoring Dwight Howard how he feels about the importance of post play. I do not think he would willingly defer to Harden. And thus, I'm not sure either player would blossom into what each eventually became or has become. This duo would face the same theoretical conundrum which would have been faced by the theoretical Jordan-Drexler-Olajuwon trio had Houston and Portland agreed to terms on the now-fantasized Portland-Houston '85 draft night swap of Ralph Sampson to the Blazers. Hell, maybe they would have made it work. Hakeem's post-game was OF COURSE respect-worthy, something you couldn't say about Dwight Howard, and Harden blows away any guard Olajuwon ever played with. Sometimes game recognize game.