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What Chris Paul’s return brings to the first-place Houston Rockets

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 17: James Harden #13 and Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets high five after the game against the Golden State Warriors on October 17, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 17: James Harden #13 and Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets high five after the game against the Golden State Warriors on October 17, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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CP3 hopes to be back for Thursday’s game against the Suns. What does he bring to the team right now?

The long-awaited return of Chris Paul to the starting 5 of the Rockets is almost here. According to Jonathan Feigen, the team hopes that he will be back on Thursday vs. the Phoenix Suns.

The Rockets have been doing pretty alright without him so far. They are 11-3 and have victories over both teams that have been in the Finals the past 3 years. Eric Gordon has stepped into the starting lineup perfectly and is averaging 23 points per game.

While CP3 played in the game against the Warriors, he didn’t look 100%. Now, he should be good and ready to go. What does his return bring to the Houston Rockets?

Help with the second unit

The bench unit needs a true point guard to help them out when James Harden is not on the floor. Mike D’Antoni has struggled to find that playmaker early in the year, resorting to the likes of Bobby Brown or Demetrius Jackson at times. Now, the team can have Chris Paul or James Harden on the court at all times which will drastically help the ball movement.

With Harden on the court, the team has an offensive rating of 11.6. With him off the court, it shoots all the way down to -2.8. CP3’s return is very necessary if the Rockets want to maintain their lead in the Western Conference.

Another man to add to the rotation

Early on this year, D’Antoni has gone with a primarily 8-man rotation. While that is somewhat acceptable come playoff time, having Harden play 36 minutes a night is not ideal for the regular season. With the addition of Paul, the Rockets can now go 9-deep and take the minutes load off of the Beard and Gordon.

Speaking of Gordon…

Eric Gordon will transition back to the bench now that Paul has returned. Like I mentioned earlier, EG was fantastic in the starting lineup, but Chris Paul is the better fit with the starters.

His role will still be to light it up when he plays, but he may find himself with fewer minutes and fewer shot attempts. With EG moving back to the bench, that now makes the second unit look like:

Paul/Harden, Gordon, Tucker, Mbah a Moute, Nene

That is about as good as it gets off the bench, folks.

An adjustment period

The James Harden/Chris Paul duo will still need time to figure out how to play together. Thankfully, the schedule has it that the next 10 games for the Rockets are against teams with a near or below .500 winning percentage. Expect it to be a little ugly at times as the two learn each other. When they figure it out, be careful NBA.

How do you think the fit will be for the Rockets? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

*All stats via Basketball-Reference*

Next: What to watch for against the Toronto Raptors

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