James Harden has played with several great players over the course of his eight year tenure with the Houston Rockets, but is Russell Westbrook the best player he’s played with?
During the 2018-19 season it became clear that Chris Paul could no longer help James Harden and the Houston Rockets. CP3 had career lows in scoring and Player Efficiency Rating, not to mention the fact that his true shooting percentage was lower than it had been in each of the previous eleven years.
This was concerning for the Rockets as Paul had been the best teammate James Harden had ever had during Harden’s Rockets’ tenure, which is evident by the fact that the Rockets almost made it to the NBA Finals if it weren’t for a hamstring injury to CP3 during the 2018 Western Conference Finals.
But the Rockets made the decision to trade Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook prior to the start of the 2019-20 season. Although it was certainly a desperate move, the trade has been a major victory for the Rockets. Granted it’s not fair to compare Westbrook and CP3 as they are much different players, but it’s clear that Westbrook has been the best complement to Harden that Rockets’ Nation has ever seen.
Westbrook has the unprecedented ability to get to the basket with ease and he has the athleticism to run the fast break, which strikes fear to imposing defenses. Westbrook can either finish at the rim or he can kick out to other shooters, which is an added bonus for a Rockets’ team which is attempting 45 triples per game.
Westbrook also became the first Rockets’ player besides Harden to score 40 points in a game since the acquisition of Harden, and is currently averaging 23.8 points per game, which are also more than other Rockets’ player dating back to The Beard’s arrival. But aside from that, Russ has simply shown the ability to take over games, which has been especially evident on the Rockets’ current three-game winning streak.
Over the last 3 games, Russ has averaged 33.6 points on 46.1% from the field and 32.5% from downtown.
But he's been driving to the basket more and getting more trips to the free throw line, which has been the key. He's had 31 free throw attempts and has made 87% of them.
— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) December 22, 2019
Westbrook has finally found his rhythm in Mike D’Antoni‘s offense, which is much quicker than most expected. Russ’s dominance and ability to take over games not only helps Harden when he’s on the floor, but it also allows Harden to rest more, which is evident by the Rockets’ current winning streak. During the Rockets’ current three-game winning streak, Harden has averaged 35 minutes per night, which is lower than his 37.6 minutes per game average on the 2019-20 season. In theory, this would be the fewest minutes Harden has played during any of his prior seven years in Houston and this could be the key to keeping Harden rested for the playoffs.
The other two former All-Stars Harden played alongside in Houston simply couldn’t take over games like Westbrook has been doing. Dwight Howard and Chris Paul each were great players in their own rights, but they both struggled to fit in alongside Harden, which created tension and friction in the locker room.
Although the Rockets have had great players throughout the years, it’s clear that Westbrook has been the best Harden has played with during his eight seasons with the Houston Rockets. So far during the 2019-20 season, both players rank inside the top ten in assists and they are combining for 62.6 points per game. This tandem is arguably the best duo in the league and are the key to the Rockets’ chances of winning a championship.