Just a quick thought: one of you compared Houston’s pairing of Chris Paul with James Harden to the Rockets’ mid 90’s super-teams featuring Olajuwon, Barkley, and either one of Clyde Drexler or Scottie Pippen. This is a pretty far-off comparison considering that while Olajuwon and Barkley were both still very good players (top-15?), Harden is top 5 and at his absolute peak, and Paul is still top 10 and possibly still in his physical prime albeit at the end of it. Contrary to popular belief, Clyde, while still an All-Star, was pretty washed up comparatively (18 points per game on 44% shooting), and Scottie was a total disaster. This current pairing joins forces at a far more favorable stage for our respective stars, and you can extend that to Carmelo Anthony, in the chance Houston is still able to swing a deal. Anthony, today, is a better player than Clyde Drexler was in 1996. (I mean, really, has anyone become more underrated in today’s NBA than Melo?)
Assuming the Rockets are able to come to terms with Paul again next summer, how long is his window? As a small guard who suffered multiple knee injuries early in his career, Paul has not relied upon his athleticism for quite some time now. I see him aging gracefully, utilizing his godly IQ and midrange shooting ability to stay elite for another two more years, and then still “very good” for yet another two. Good comps in this regard would be John Stockton and Steve Nash.
I said a couple of weeks ago that I didn’t want the Rockets to sign Chris Paul and then a lot of you laughed at me and said I was an idiot and now I’ve changed my mind and am only posting this to show my open-mindedness.
In seriousness, I’ve thought about the matter and I want them to sign Paul. I fully grasp the absurdity in proffering that statement as something profound. But one must admit, in acceptance of my prior stance, that the fit is not ideal. Paul is a ball-dominant guard and last season irrefutably proved that James Harden is at his very best with the ball in his hands. To those who find that latter characterization somehow offensive–and those people exist–I will add that last season also irrefutably proved that the Rockets’ offense is at its best with the ball in James Harden’s hands. Paul is also 32, and a new deal would take him closer to 40 than to his prime.
But such perilous times call for the dismissal of such luxuries as concerns over fit. Perhaps Paul Millsap or Blake Griffin would be integrated more smoothly into the Houston offense. But if Chris Paul is the one willing to come, the Rockets would be foolish to turn their nose up at him in want of preserving their cherished chemistry. They did amazing things last season, yes, but if merely preserving their current core and making modest upgrades, the best they can hope for is even the opportunity this time around to get swept by the Warriors, a fate they weren’t even good enough last year to realize in falling in the second round. The gap is that gargantuan and one would be deluded to think otherwise.
Last of all, I’ve long believed that Houston must diversify its offense to succeed at the highest levels. Last year’s extension of Morey’s long held philosophy, with the right personnel, sufficed to allow the team to pummel opponents on its way to an unexpected 55 win season. “Threes and paint” can lift you from 45 wins to 55. But at the margins, we saw again how the best defenses can scheme to turn Houston’s no-midrange strategy against it. Getting Paul, one of the best midrange shooters of all-time, doesn’t necessarily mean D’Antoni will forfeit his gameplan. But having an extra all-NBA playmaker will allow the team to give defenses varied looks instead of needing outright dependence upon James Harden. We saw Harden willingly defer to Eric Gordon and Lou Williams against the Thunder when those two had favorable matchups with Harden shadowed by Andre Roberson; now imagine that cross-court option being Chris Paul.