The future Hall of Fame point guard of the Houston Rockets is getting older and will be here for a while longer due to his contract. Here’s how we can get more out of CP3.
The Houston Rockets were forced to stand pat during free agency after their top target, Jimmy Butler, chose to sign with the Miami Heat.
So barring role players, the Rockets “big three” will again be Clint Capela, Chris Paul and James Harden. Many Rockets fans have recently turned on Clint Capela, but I should remind you that just 2 seasons ago, the Rockets had a record of 50-5 when Capela, Paul, and Harden all played.
Sure, Capela didn’t play well against the Warriors but that’s because the Warriors were built in such a way that they could go small and play Draymond Green at the five with their “Hampton Five” line-up.
My concern is with Chris Paul, who the Rockets will need to get more out of. Sure, many think the reason for Chris Paul’s decline last season was due to the isolation-heavy offense being led by Harden, but personally, I think the Rockets were forced to go isolation heavy because of all the injuries to Chris Paul, Clint Capela and Eric Gordon. Many Rockets fans want Chris Paul out of town, but the reality is his contract is essentially untradeable so he will be donning a Rockets uniform at least for next season.
Getting more out of CP3
There is a way for the Rockets to get more out of Chris Paul: load management. Let’s compare Chris Paul to 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Chris Paul has played in 58 games in each of the last 2 seasons he’s been in Houston and has averaged 31.9 minutes per night during that same time span.
Let’s not forget the fact that CP3 missed 18 games due to injury and 2 additional games due to suspension after the Rondo fight this past season. So he would have actually played in more games this past season. Keep in mind Chris Paul is 34 years old and just finished his No. 14 season in the league.
By comparison, Kawhi Leonard just turned 28 and just finished his 8th season, while playing in 60 games at 34 minutes per night. Those are nearly identical numbers to CP3, yet Leonard is still in the peak of his career and is 6 years younger! Furthermore, just 2 seasons ago Kawhi only played in 9 games on 23 minutes per night and did not play in any of the 14 back-to-back games the Spurs played.
Despite this, he was still on a load management plan this year. He basically didn’t play an entire season and came back on a load management plan. Part of that load management plan by the Raptors this past season was to rest Kawhi on back to back games. Leonard did not play in any of the 12 back-to-back games the Raptors played in. How exactly did that work out? It turned into an NBA Championship and another NBA Finals MVP for Kawhi.
CP3 is quite older than Kawhi, yet he is still playing essentially the same amount of minutes per night and nearly the same number of games. Furthermore, Chris Paul played in 8 of the 12 back-to-back games the Rockets played in while averaging 30.46 minutes in such games. The year before, CP3 played in 8 of 14 back-to-back games, averaging 32.8 minutes per game.
What the Rockets should do
What I think would get more out of Paul would actually be for the Rockets to rest CP3 in back-to-back games and limit him to 30 minutes per night. This would have been the equivalent of 12 additional games for CP3 this past season and 13 additional games the year before (based on an 82 game schedule). We have to keep in mind the goal is to have Chris Paul healthy during the post-season. We can play Austin Rivers a healthy number of minutes and depending on what happens with Chris Clemons and/or Shamorie Ponds, we may be able to give them minutes also. Or we could always add a veteran point guard.
Either way, I think the Rockets could learn from Toronto, as Kawhi Leonard did not play in ANY back to back games but came out in the playoffs playing 39.1 minutes per night. The reason he was able to play extended minutes in the playoffs is that he had sat out so many nights during the season and was fresh.
Here’s to hoping the Rockets do the same with Chris Paul so we can keep him fresh and get him back to playing at an All-NBA level!