OK. A three-headed monster gave birth to a few two-headed monsters, and the face of the NBA looks a lot different than it did a month ago. But what does it all mean?
The free-agency shuffling has settled down enough for everyone to rework their power rankings. The general consensus is that the NBA title will reside somewhere in Los Angeles next year. That means either the Lakers with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, or the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
But what about Kevin Durant (is he OK?) and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, or Steph Curry and Klay Thompson at Golden State? And closer to home, what about James Harden and Russell Westbrook in Houston?
Are The Rockets Better?
The Westbrook trade that sent Chris Paul on his way caught us off guard, and left another burning question: Are the Rockets that much better?
That’s not to take anything away from Westbrook. He’s certainly one of the most dynamic guards in the NBA. And do you remember 2012 when Westbrook and Harden were two heads of the monster that took Oklahoma City to the NBA finals? Yep, Durant was the third.
But that was then, when they were young whippersnappers. This is now, and Westbrook and Harden have evolved into solely dominant team leaders. How those roles will fall into place remains to be seen.
But when you get down to the X’s and O’s, this guard combo could work, and Mike D’Antoni may be the coach to make it work.
The New Look
Sure, the coach will stagger their playing time, as he did last season with Harden and Paul. But Harden and Westbrook do different things well, and the Rockets should take advantage of that.
Harden is more of a pure shooter, and Westbrook is a slasher, who will go end-to-end when he sees the opportunity. This is the type of attack that can give defenses a fit when the two are on the floor at the same time. So, look for Harden to get more catch-and-shoot 3s and for Westbrook to run the floor.
Westbrook has proven himself to be durable; he’ll play 75 games. And he doesn’t shy away from rebounding.
We will also get a chance to see if Westbrook can run pick-and-rolls with Clint Capela and how he works with good shooters like P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon.
Other Possible Rockets Trades
Capela of course is not above the fray in all of this. He’s been trade-bait rumor for a while now, and Houston’s recent acquisition of Tyson Chandler from the Lakers means Capela might still be up for grabs.
The other center, Nene, opted into free agency, so GM Daryl Morey may just be getting some security at the position. But we suspect the security might be needed for other possible deals, namely the latest target, Kevin Love, who might come from Cleveland in a trade for Capela.
Then there is the Andre Igoudala situation. He’s still with the Memphis Grizzlies now, but the Rockets, Mavericks, Clippers and others are showing interest in grabbing him up.
The Houston Rockets may be a better team after all is said and done. But there is really no telling how the league hierarchy will shake out as the season progresses. There are a lot egos competing among these “new” teams, and each team is one injury away from a major slump.
So it might be a good idea for fans to get NBA tickets lined up for games early in the season. By January the whole thing may look different.