How the pick and roll will get the best out of Harden
The Rockets would be mad not to run more pick and rolls and based upon their roster they should be able to sport one of the league’s deadliest. If the Rockets are going to reach their offensive ceiling, they’ll need to pick their spots and roll their way to easy buckets.
Last season, Harden, Westbrook, and Gordon were all above average in the pick and roll but they only averaged a combined 11.3 pick and roll possessions a game. Those represented all of the Rockets’, league-low, 11.3 pick and roll possessions per game, and were fewer than what five players managed on their own.
Upping the pick and roll usage in lieu of isolations should help the Rockets offense be less predictable, while also increasing its overall effectiveness. That being said, isolations shouldn’t go away entirely, they should just be used strategically and not function as the basis for the entire offense.
James Harden is the isolation god, he averaged the most isolations per game and a gaudy 1.12 points per isolation possession, but asking him to create offense out of thin air 14 times a game is not the best use of his energy. Getting Harden to commit to the pick and roll will help him get easy buckets and conserve his energy for the fourth quarter when effective isolation plays can be the difference between a narrow victory or defeat.
The Rockets’ brand new frontcourt will need to mesh quickly for the offense to hit the ground running. Silas needs to work hard to foster the pick and roll chemistry between Wood and Harden, as they represent the team’s best pick and roll duo.
Both Wood and Harden are dangerous from all three levels of the court, which is exceedingly rare for a pick and roll combination. If the chemistry between the two can develop swiftly the Rockets will have a shot to boost their points per game average from 117.8 to over 120.
Harden was the best offensive player in the league last season and he did it largely on his own. Silas’ offense will still ask Harden to do the heavy lifting but not to the same degree that D’Antoni hoisted on him.
Harden should look fresher throughout the season while posting the impossibly gaudy offensive numbers we have come to expect. Every season Harden is in the MVP conversation, but consider him the favorite heading into 2021.
Next: The best Westbrook yet?