James Harden, Chris Paul have exceeded Mike D’Antoni’s expectations

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images /

The acquisition of Chris Paul by the Houston Rockets raised some eyebrows, but his play with James Harden has exceeded even Mike D’Antoni‘s expectations.

After the Houston Rockets landed Chris Paul in a trade over the summer to pair with James Harden, there was euphoria in Houston but skepticism around the league.

For Rockets fans, the obvious excitement was centered around the fact that Houston has not one, but two of the elite guards in the NBA. Paul, a nine-time All-Star, is one of the best passers and point guards that this league has ever seen. And now the Rockets were pairing him with James Harden, the runner-up for last year’s MVP, in one of the most unique back courts that this league has ever seen.

The critics of course, had their opinions as well. Many people didn’t think that two ball-dominant guards could co-exist. That Harden and Paul would take touches away from each other and that we’d have a Dwight Howard like situation again. Heck, even after a 19-4 start, Charles Barkley still isn’t a big fan of the Rockets.

Obviously, the Rockets were convinced that a Paul and Harden back court would be successful, or else they wouldn’t have made the trade. With that being said, Mike D’Antoni is still very impressed with how well they’ve played together, via Sam Amick of USA Today.

“I knew that Chris and Eric (Gordon), or James and Eric, in the time that they’re together, would arguably be one of the best backcourts in the league – Eric is that good. And so, we start with that. And then it’s, ‘Ok, when they’re not on, it’s James and Chris. Can they do it? It’s been seamless, (even though) I thought there might be some bumps. But because of their willingness, and their knowledge of the game and their willingness to share the ball, and Chris and James both willing to be the sidekick for a play or two, then it’s worked out quicker than expected…. It’s worked out better than our wildest dreams.”

D’Antoni was correct in his original assessment. When Harden and Eric Gordon are on the floor together, they’re outscoring teams by 9.8 points per game, which is the highest on the team. Meanwhile, Paul and Gordon are outscoring their opponents by 7.8 points per game. What’s really impressive about the Paul and Gordon pairing is their defense, as they have a defensive rating of 90.8 when they’re together.

When James Harden and Chris Paul have played together, they have an outstanding 117.9 offensive rating, but a troublesome 111.1 defensive rating. That’s a solid net rating of plus-6.8, but it would be very beneficial if they could tighten up defensively while they’re on the floor.

Next: Houston Rockets: 3 lessons from the matchup with the Utah Jazz

The biggest positive sign is that the Rockets are 9-0 when Paul is in the lineup, and they’ve won their last eight games since CP3 returned from injury. Over the last eight games, Houston has a league-leading net rating of plus-20.0 and they’re making 18.1 3s per game on 42.2 percent. Houston has been rolling teams over this year, and I have a feeling that they’re just getting started.