Was James Harden happy playing next to Westbrook
It seems impossible that Harden, after a single season, would indicate that he wanted Westbrook out of Houston. It was Harden, after all, who pushed for his acquisition in the first-place and the two are reported to be good friends.
However, just because someone is a friend doesn’t mean that they work well with you. Westbrook, just like Harden, is a ball-dominant player, he’s just not anywhere as good at it as Harden is.
The best superstar duos work because the players’ games don’t directly overlap. It allows for the team to be elite in multiple facets of the game, while not experiencing diminishing returns when the players have nearly identical skill sets.
Harden and Westbrook are both elite shot-creators but that’s the extent of their games. Neither are great defensively and while Westbrook is a good rebounder for a guard that doesn’t make him an elite rebounder overall.
What separates Harden from Westbrook is that Harden is better at converting his shots and slightly better at setting others up. Harden’s skill set and style was so similar to Westbrooks’ that the two essentially took turns running the offense.
Harden is who the Rockets offense should run through no matter who is on the floor, which made Westbrook an awkward fit next to him. The two were incapable of amplifying each other’s production which is exactly what championship duos are able to do.
Look at the Lakers with Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Davis amplified LeBron’s passing and LeBron’s passing amplified Davis’ scoring. The two had games that were natural fits on the court together in a way that Harden and Westbrook weren’t able to replicate.
James Harden doesn’t think Russell Westbrook is a scrub but after a season together maybe he realized that this wasn’t the type of player that he needs next to him. When the Rockets blitzed the league for 65 wins and Harden took home the MVP trophy he had a true facilitator next to him in Chris Paul.
Perhaps Harden realizes that he needs a pass-first player next to him so that their skills don’t overlap too much on the court. John Wall is no Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul but he is a pass-first player that has an All-Defensive team on his resume.
Having the best players possible is a great strategy when you’re rebuilding but when it comes time to win a championship it’s about having the right pieces. The Lakers understood that last season and the Rockets didn’t, which is why one won the NBA championship and the other didn’t.