James Harden was a Russell Westbrook away from winning the MVP trophy in 2016-17. A career year for Harden might not have even made it to the Western Conference Finals, but his 29.1 points per game and 11.2 assists per game made fourth in both categories across the league.
Westbrook’s historic season left Harden’s superb year in the shadows. The Houston Rockets, however, have now set about giving Harden a team ready to challenge the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors in the West. Their roster currently cannot live with the firepower of the Spurs or Warriors, even with Harden performing to superhuman levels.
The answer is a big summer 2017. Chris Paul has just arrived for a seven player and first round pick haul, but the questions remain.
Defensively Harden is lacking, his offensive play is sublime but he needs defence around him. Paul similarly is a highlight reel kind of player, and a man who has been at the centre of team chemistry issues with the Los Angeles Clippers. On paper, though, a multiple all-star to join one of the league’s best offensive players is a fearsome move.
There are doubts in some corners about the suitability of Paul to the Harden-led Rockets, but it’s a statement of intent in the early knockings of a potentially dramatic offseason. Paul is a veteran and a veteran hungry to win, hungry to compete deep into the playoffs. He was marginally down on his career numbers last season – recording 18.1 ppg and 9.2 apg – but he changes the image of the Rockets to the rest of the league.
The other rumoured target for the Rockets this summer goes by the name of Paul George. George – who has made his desire to leave the Indiana Pacers clear – is the cornerstone of offseason plans across the league. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics lead the running at the moment, though the Cavs were dealt a tough blow when a trade offer was rejected earlier this week.
George is a four-time All-star coming off one of his best years. He hit 23.7 ppg and 6.6 rebounds per game, and would see the Rockets begin to tussle with the Cavs and Warriors in this superteam era. The Rockets have already called this summer a ‘weapons race’, now they are in the trickiest jostle of them all: the fight for George.
Paul George’s credentials, contract and willingness to leave the Pacers have made him the missing piece of the jigsaw for many a franchise. The Cavaliers want him to be their Kevin Durant, Boston want him to boost their chances in the East and the Los Angeles Lakers want him to be the face of their rebuilt roster.
Should Houston bring in George, however, they will be the next in line to break up the Warriors-Cavaliers domination of the NBA. It’s currently at 12/1 and, quite frankly, that price could look a real bargain if George, Paul and Harden could replicate their 2016-17 outputs.
Check out all the outright NBA betting – including odds on Paul George’s future – here: http://bit.ly/2tpM5Ky