Daily Rockets Science: Westbrook Takes Round One
James Harden will get his chance for vengeance, but Westbrook soundly took the first of their matchups this year.
The Houston Rockets were nearly scoreless for the last 6 minutes of the game last night, and the Oklahoma City Thunder took advantage of the drought. It also happened to be a rough shooting night for James Harden. While the Beard was still able to get his teammates involved, Russell Westbrook outperformed his old teammate overall and his team took home the W.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook, according to this writer, are the two best point guards in the league. Their respective teams play each other three more times during the regular season, allowing plenty of opportunity for them to prove their dominance.
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Last night’s game brought on quite a bit of comparison between the two superstars. According to Maurice Bobb of Bleacher Report, the two are now carrying identical loads for their teams. Once teammates, they’re now the go-to guys in their respective cities.
Both are the undisputed faces of their respective franchises. Both are putting up ridiculous numbers. Both are scoring at will. Both are threatening The Big O’s magical 1961-62 season. Both are successfully stepping out of their comfort zones to facilitate for their teammates. Both are now leaders of men.
Not only are they carrying their teams on a nightly basis, but Harden and Westbrook are doing a fantastic job in the process. ESPN’s Micah Adams writes that they are each poised to put up a couple of the best offensive seasons in NBA history.
The Rockets are a whopping 36.6 points per 100 possessions better with Harden on the floor than without him. And they have played more than 100 minutes without him, so it is not that small of a sample. While it is shocking that a team would be six points per 100 possessions better defensively with Harden on the floor, the difference on offense is stunning. Houston is the worst offense in NBA history without him on the floor and one of the best in NBA history with him on the floor. It’s that simple.
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In news unrelated to Harden’s and Westbrook’s utter dominance, the staff at Space City Scoop came together to discuss the Rockets and how they’ll fare this season. There are several editions, but the most pertinent one at the moment discusses Harden leading the league in assists.
I see no reason, barring injury or some other catastrophe, why James Harden can’t lead the league in assists. He’ll almost certainly have the highest usage rate in the league (Westbrook’s might be higher, but he has fewer shooters around him than Harden and isn’t as good a passer), and will have some of the best spot up shooters in the league on the court with him. The fact that Harden will play with a center who ranked in the 83rd percentile on pick and roll scoring along with three 40% three point shooters should terrify the rest of the league. 10 assists per game should come easily for Harden.
After a tough loss in OKC last night, the Rockets are back in action at home tonight. They’ll take on the Portland Trail Blazers, giving Harden another opportunity to prove himself against one of the best.
Damian Lillard and his Blazers torched Harden and company in Houston one time last season. Hopefully, the Rockets have learned their lesson and can prove to be the better squad this time around.