The Clippers have made the splash moves by bringing in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. How should the Rockets counter those acquisitions? Here’s my take.
By now, you’ve heard that the Clippers have added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, which is obviously a dynamic duo. For Rockets fans, there are questions to be asked now. How does this affect us? What’s next?
Its important that we don’t go “NBA2K” mode and think we need to counter this by trying to add another star. For starters, I’m not convinced there are any stars we can add without breaking up the core, and I don’t believe we will be able to move Chris Paul’s contract.
But let’s look at the newly configured Clippers. They will surely be a force on defense with Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and former Rocket fan-favorite Patrick Beverley. That’ll be a force to be reckoned with. But both PG13 and Kawhi each have an injury history, despite both being fairly young. Paul George suffered a shoulder injury during the season which really affected his shooting. He just had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and we don’t know if the injury will have a long term effect on him. Kawhi was actually coming off an injury of his own and had to be put on a load management plan this past season. The Raptors were so concerned with Leonard’s health that they chose not to play him in ANY of the 12 back-to-back games they played this past season.
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So there is the durability question with this duo. On top of that, the Clippers don’t have a facilitator. This will have a big affect on George as he actually played his best this past season while playing in the same backcourt as the league assist leader Russell Westbrook. Beverley is certainly not a true point guard but more of a 3-and-D player, who also would benefit from playing alongside a facilitator, which again the Clippers do not have.
Sure, the Clippers will now be much better, but let’s face it, they were the 8th seed and were going to be better regardless. Where I think they will be hurt is with their depth. Will they have the depth to rest Kawhi on the second night of back to back games?
I think the Rockets can add several good role players to counter the new look Clippers. The Rockets can still go out and pick up someone like JaMychal Green, who is 6’9 and shot over 50% from deep in the post-season. Or they also can go pick up Kyle Korver, who is one of the best three point shooters of all time and shoots 42.9% from downtown on his career. Or they can go out and trade for Robert Covington who has previously been named First Team All Defense and shot 37% from three last season.
The key to beating the Clippers will be to add multiple bigs who can shoot and/or defend. This is because as currently constructed, the Clippers will be able to throw multiple elite defenders at Harden. Adding a 3-and-D player could counter that, because if Harden draws a second defender, he can kick out to an open shooter. Adding elite defenders would also be needed, as George and Leonard each averaged over 25 points per game, which is where Andre Iguodala would be a good fit on the Rockets.
The Rockets also would need to add more size as Leonard is 6’7 and George is 6’9. Again, this is how Covington and Green could help as they are each 6’9. A versatile forward who can shoot and defend is exactly what the Rockets need. Iguodala, Covington, and Green all fit that to the tee. Although Korver doesn’t bring defense to the equation, he is the best three point sniper of all of them.
For Rockets nation, Kawhi going to Lob City is much better than joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Lakers. In a very crowded West where just about every team improved, the Rockets should feel good about their championship window this season. It will take time for Leonard and PG13 to learn to play together and learn to play off each other and the Clippers still need a facilitator, which they will have a hard time finding now that Rajon Rondo is off the market.
Unlike the Clippers, the Rockets have chemistry, as they’ve reached the Conference Finals and the Conference Semi-Finals with largely the exact same roster. On top of that, I don’t believe Morey is done. In fact, I would be surprised if the Rockets don’t add one of players I’ve mentioned.
But either way, this season presents a better opportunity than ever for the Rockets to bring home an NBA title. And if you ask me, these are the type of moves we were going to make regardless of Kawhi and Paul George going to the Clippers. So from my standpoint, the Clippers moves shouldn’t have any impact on the Rockets off-season plans.