By Paul Muth
Let’s take a trip in the memory machine to 2013. I had spent a few days backpacking with some buddies and the day we returned to cell phone reception, we were greeted with some interesting news.
Dwight Howard, Superman himself, was headed to Houston.
We were ecstatic. It all made sense. An all star guard paired with an all star big. The Rockets were suddenly contenders and everyone was salivating in anticipation of the season’s tip-off.
Fast forward to today:
Roughly the same thing.
So it was announced the morning that the Rockets were shipping off fan-favorite Patrick Beverley, intriguing but oft-injured Sam Dekker, underwhelming Lou Williams, the crazy colored dreads belonging to Montrezl Harrell and a first round pick for the services of Chris Paul next season.
The difference between this blockbuster and 2013’s is that my initial reaction this time around was more of a shoulder shrug than euphoria. Here’s why:
How does he fit?
Anyone who has watched a Rockets game in the past 5 years knows that Harden needs the ball to truly maximize his value. The same is also true for Paul. So who’s taking the ball up the court? After a historic performance from Harden as a point guard this past season, does he return to shooting guard now?
It’s still not enough.
Let’s assume they make it work. It’s a reasonable possibility considering that one, they wanted to make this happen/play together, and two, we’ve got the 2016-2017 Coach of the Year. I’m sure once Mike D’Antoni picks his jaw up off the floor, he’ll be quick to the drawing board to start playing with his new lineup. The problem is that it’s still not enough. Everyone is still chasing Golden State and will for some time because, whether you like them or not, that team is historically stacked with talent.
Plan on throwing Chris Paul on Steph Curry? That’s famously not worked out well, but let’s say he bottles him up for the sake of argument. Now you’ve got Harden on Klay Thompson. Let’s pretend once again for the sake of argument that Harden suddenly becomes interested in playing defense (probably after CP3 promises him a cameo in his next State Farm commercial) and shuts Thompson down. Guess what? You still have to deal with Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.
The trade is progress, but it’s not getting us past the Warriors.
What this trade looks like to me is a set-up piece for a much more interesting end game. The Rockets are going to need a star wing or power forward as well to get past Golden State, and I refuse to believe that Daryl Morey has buckled up the suitcase and turned off the office lights until October. There are already rumblings that Carmelo Anthony is now interested in Houston, and that CP3 and Harden are actively campaigning for Paul George. Paul Millsap has been rumored to be on the Rockets shopping list as well.
I say lets get all the Pauls. An all Paul team. Not really, but at least one more would greatly increase our chances of legitimately contending for the Western Conference crown.
The biggest question upon playoff elimination for the Rockets was “Who would want to come play with Harden?”
That question was answered rather quickly. Everyone stay tuned, because I’m pretty sure we’re not done yet.
Editor’s note: Paul Muth is an Army vet who tends to talk a lot, so when his friends tell him to stop, he either writes or talks to a microphone and calls it a podcast. He writes better with a beard and looks better with a beer. Or something like that. Follow him on twitter at @abumnamedpaul