Reunited and it feels so good! Russell Westbrook and James Harden are together at last. Some people are saying that the Houston Rockets adding Russell Westbrook to the roster was not a good move … not like Lebron James lobbying for Anthony Davis. But, James Harden asked for it … and got his request. A lot of people thought that he would know his role going into the Rockets and playing beside one of the best shooters in the game. They thought he would spend all summer in the gym and up his 3-point percentage. Well … he’s still bad at shooting the ball. So are the Rockets better off with Westbrook instead of CP3 … Um … no. But at least there is an element of kamikaze attacks down the lane that Houston didn’t have before. However, teams are now utilizing double-teams on James Harden. In seasons past, with Gordon and Chirs Paul on the floor, this was a risky move. If you pulled a guard or say small forward who was guarding the wing off to double-team James Harden you exposed yourself to leaving Gordon or CP3 open … which is not wise because both of those guys can knock down the shot. With Westbrook on the floor, teams will dare him to take the shot, so double-teaming or even boxing Harden is suddenly a sound defensive strategy. This could also create a lot of problems for the Rockets in the postseason, especially against sound defensive teams like the Clippers and Lakers, who are favorites at online betting sites to win it all.
The three-game losing streak – as of Tuesday evening– is proof of this. So can the Houston Rockets win the west?
Not without a great shooter to accompany Harden and Westbrook; they drastically need Eric Gordon back. He’s undergoing knee surgery and is supposed to only miss six weeks more … hopefully, he can make it back and be recovered enough to pair alongside Harden. Maybe if the Rockets can make the playoffs without him, and give him plenty of time to rest and recover, he can go into the postseason and really help they Rockets blast off.
As far as the right now is concerned, Westbrook and Harden duo is not better than the Anthony Davis and Lebron duo. Right now, Lebron is averaging 25.6 points per game while Anthony Davis is averaging 25.1. So they combine for just over 50 points per game. Westbrook is averaging 22.2 while Harden is averaging 37.9 per game. So they combine for 60.1 per game … but AD and LBJ don’t have a blaring defensive solution when they are both on the floor together. As a team, a unit, the pairing of Anthony Davis and Lebron James makes a lot more sense. Especially on defense. The Lakers are all-around much better at stopping other teams from scoring … despite Russell’s 1.5 steals per game. The Rockets rank 20th in the league in home defense and 23rd in the league in overall defense. Meanwhile, the LA Lakers overall scoring defense is No. 3 in the league. That alone is one factor that makes the Lakers much more likely to win the west.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook are both amazing offensive player – with Harden being the more well-rounded of the two. However, both a middling at best when it comes to their defensive presence. Imagine if they only allowed 97 points per game at home, like the Lakers. They would be unstoppable. But instead, they allow 113 per game while playing in Houston and 115 on average – meaning their road defense allows around 117 (I don’t have that stat in front of me but the math is pretty simple).
I don’t think that the defense will be too much better with Eric Gordon back … but the offensive dynamic could be great for Houston, heck … just having another primary ball-handler that can hold it down and give Harden a rest. He played 41 and 42 minutes in each of his last two games and is averaging nearly 38 minutes per game this season.
For now, though, the verdict is the LA has the better duo. Although comparing the combination of a Forward and a PF/Center to two Guards is a bit unfair.