“How will two big-name MVP All-Stars like James Harden and Russell Westbrook mesh together on the court?” That’s been the key question for the Houston Rockets since the offseason. Well, as it turns out, these two legends are handling it pretty well. They work great together in the Rockets lineup, as well as separately on the floor. And at least partly because of their comfortable dynamic, this season’s Houston Rockets team looks like a contender. Really. It’s not this star-powered duo that we should worry about (at least not right now), but the supporting cast that surrounds them.
So what does this season look like for Harden, Westbrook, the Rockets, and fans when it comes to hanging a title? Here’s what we think… and where you can get cheap Rockets tickets to decide for yourself!
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How well do Harden and Westbrook actually play together?
Head coach Mike D’Antoni has gotten creative with the Rockets’ offense, and that’s another reason why they look like one of the better teams in the NBA right now. They’ve scored the second-most points in the league and they’ve got the fifth-best record in the league. Yet they’ve still struggled to find a consistent rotation that works well. But that’s not because of Westbrook and Harden.
During the offseason, the Rockets swapped point guards – moving Westbrook into Chris Paul’s old spot. The big question mark was how he would deal with being thrust into this Harden-centric team.
Westbrook has experience playing with Harden in the past, back when they were Oklahoma City Thunder teammates – they even went to the playoffs together in 2012. But in recent years, Harden has become the savior of the Rockets, carrying them into the postseason on his back with last year’s shooting streak of 31 consecutive games with 30+ points (in case you’ve forgotten). Well, Harden is still doing similar stuff this year, averaging a ridiculous 38.4 points per game at a 46.3% rate, not to mention hitting three-pointers at 38.6% clip.
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Meanwhile, Westbrook has been fitting into this roster relatively nicely. While he isn’t the MVP-level baller he once was, Westbrook is playing as well as he was last season, for the most part. He’s actually scoring more points per game on average (22.9 last year vs. 24.1 this year) even if he is racking up fewer assists and rebounds. His three-point accuracy has fallen from 29% to 23.5% though, and he does turn the ball over quite a lot… but then again, so does Harden. During December, however, Westbrook improved to an average of 26.8 points per game and 27.7% from beyond the arc. So maybe he’s settling into his new role?
Because Westbrook’s knees give him trouble sometimes, D’Antoni has done his best to rest his new point guard occasionally in hopes of keeping him fresh for the postseason. While his stats haven’t necessarily reaped the benefits of this load management yet, he’s over 30 and known for his explosiveness, so avoiding injury is key.
Both Westbrook and Harden are infamous for their one-man-show kind of styles on the court (notice we’re not using the term “ball hog”), but so far, they’ve been leading this Rockets team in the right direction together. While the dynamic isn’t totally seamless, they’ve fallen into a pattern, even a sort of comfortable routine together.
Where’s the support though?
One of the main problems for this talented duo also happens to be a problem for the Lakers’ insane combo of Lebron James and Anthony Davis: the supporting staff coming off the bench. The Rockets’ Gerald Green isn’t expected back this season, Austin Rivers is only averaging 7.9 points per game (he’s either wildly good or terrible), and recent addition Ben McLemore is slumping a little. Even Eric Gordon has had a rough start to the season. Clint Capela, Danuel House Jr., and PJ Tucker are key if the Rockets hope to win a title, but the depth and consistency of the supporting squad could be an issue for this team going forward.
On Saturday, the Rockets will play the Minnesota Timberwolves at home at the Toyota Center in Houston, and then they’ll travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies before heading home for four in a row against the Trail Blazers, Lakers (that’s a big one!), Thunder (big one for Westbrook!), and Nuggets. Get tickets and get in on the action!