The Rise of the 2 Point-Guard System
Written by: Curtis Moses (@WordToMoses)
Can two ball-dominant players beat a superteam? Chris Paul and James Harden are determined to find out in the latest surprise move in the 2017 NBA offseason. Just days before the official start of Free Agency on July 1st, Chris Paul agreed to opt into the last year of his contract and be traded to the Houston Rockets. A move that lead many of us to question wether the pairing could actually be successful in toppling today’s superteams of the NBA.
At first glance, it seems a bit confusing that Houston GM Daryl Morey would seek the addition of a point guard to the Rockets’ roster. This past season, James Harden’s successful transition into the primary ball-handler and distributor role saw much of the basketball world become comfortable calling him a bonafide point guard. His per game assists average increased by nearly 5 without compromising his scoring. Most interesting is the fact that he did this while barely increasing his usage percentage, which only went up by 1.7% per game from last season. So it seems Houston has a point guard that can get the job done. Why add Chris Paul then?
Let’s look at a couple reasons why Chris Paul, now effectively the Rockets’ second point guard, is a good fit with James Harden.
Experience & Mentorship
While James Harden went on to lead the league in assists at 11.2 APG, he also lead the league in turnovers (for the 2nd year in a row) at 5.7. Chris Paul on the other hand lead the league in assist to turnover ratio (amongst point guards) for the 6th time in his career. This is no surprise in comparing a seasoned vet in CP3 to James Harden’s first go-round at the position. If Harden looks to continue his career as a point guard he’ll have to shore up those giveaways, and under the tutelage of Paul is the most ideal place to start doing just that.
The Rockets had the 3rd best record in the league last year, they also boasted the 3rd best point differential, and the 2nd highest scoring average. How could they possibly need more help? Understanding that these are regular season stats reaffirms a point discussed all year: none of that matters in the playoffs. Look no further than the box score of Houston’s game 6 against the Spurs. Against an elite defense like San Antonio’s in the postseason, it will surely take more than “Rookie” James Harden at point guard. Bringing Chris Paul to that dynamic offers a help and postseason experience that Harden simply cant duplicate in the same role. In the same playoff predicament, it would serve the Rockets best to move Harden back to the shooting guard and giving Paul the keys to the offense, effectively relieving Harden of the responsibility of getting his teammates involved while still producing as he has in his original role.
New Superteam Format
Two heads are better than one, right? Or is “too many cooks in the kitchen” the proper adage for this situation? Are dual point guards and playmakers the exception to the rule? Only time will tell. What we do know is that Harden heavily recruited CP3 to join him, so the two clearly think they can become a formidable duo. They also have the support of Coach D’Antoni as he expressed in the press conference announcing the trade with Morey, “The more point guards you have the better”. We’re seeing the dual-playmaker pairing work at the highest levels in the league with the likes of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving & LeBron James; as well as moderate successes in Isaiah Thomas & Marcus Smart, John Wall & Bradley Beal, and Giannis & whoever Jason Kidd has out there as the other point guard at the time. In due time, Chris Paul and James Harden will find a way to peacefully coexist and produce on the court at the same time. Why? “Because they want it to work” – Mike D’Antoni.
The “dual-playmaker system” is the starting point for franchises looking to build their own superteams, as well as looking to take down an already established one. What makes Houston’s new foundation so different from the other cores of superteams in the league? It is because for the first time in all of these these superstar pairings, we are witnessing a team adopt a player that seemingly duplicates a role that is already being fulfilled. In the past it’s been a forward going to play alongside a guard, or vice versa. In today’s NBA, teams are trying new things to challenge the top dogs of the league. For example, the unlikely pairing of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis in New Orleans. The jury may still be out on on the Pelicans, but the future looks promising for The Rockets with The Beard and CP3.