James Harden’s slump could end up being a positive for the Rockets

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook James Harden (Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook James Harden (Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Although the Houston Rockets’ record has suffered due to James Harden’s recent struggles, they could end up being a blessing in disguise.

The early Super Sunday matchup between the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans saw James Harden officially break out of the worst slump of his career. Harden struggled from the field like never before for most of the month of January and the Rockets struggled overall as a result. Although Harden’s play hindered the Rockets last month, it could actually be a token for them to unlock their full potential when it counts the most.

Many different things happened in the midst of the Harden slump, but one of the most intriguing developments was the dominance of Russell Westbrook in the Rockets’ system. For the month of January, Russell Westbrook averaged 32.5 points, eight rebounds and eight assists while shooting 52 percent from the field.

Westbrook has been able to take the pressure off of Harden in a way that no teammate of his has since he’s been in Houston, being able to consistently score and dominate games in a way that allows for Harden to have an off night without sacrificing the team’s chance to win.

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Russ finding his rhythm in this system is vital to the Rockets reaching their full potential. He has more space to get to the rim now than he’s had in years and is taking full advantage of it.

Harden’s slump has also forced the Rockets to score points in other ways.

Another key is  Eric Gordon rounding into shape recently and finding his rhythm after his knee surgery last year. The Rockets look the most dangerous when Harden, Westbrook, and Gordon are all engaged and in rhythm.

For example, at home in a win against the Denver Nuggets, all three of them scored more than 25 points. Gordon also had the best game of his career last month scoring 50 points on the road against the Utah Jazz in a game in which Westbrook and Harden didn’t play.

James Harden played at an incredibly high level for most of the first three months of the season, averaging over 36 points per game in October, November and December. Naturally, with a guy playing that exceptionally, the other guys were not doing as much as they were capable of because simply, a lot of times they didn’t have to.

Harden’s subpar January stretch allowed other key players to build their confidence with this new version of the Rockets.

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Houston can learn from the month of January to balance out their scoring more, which will allow their key players to mesh together and be more dangerous together, and that will give them the best chance to reach their lofty goal of a championship this season.