James Harden got paid, to the tune of a $228 million extension that will keep him in Houston through the 2022-23 season. And, as last year proved, he’s earned such a lucrative and status-sealing figure. His 29.1/8.2/11.2 slash line would be MVP-worthy in many other years. Unfortunately, his greatness was somewhat overshadowed by Russell Westbrook and the bright, shiny triple-double.
With the splashy addition of Chris Paul, the Rockets are assembling a superteam. Carmelo Anthony is now the next desired piece. There appears to be mutual interest as Anthony is willing to waive his no-trade clause.
The Golden State Warriors are the bully, the big stack at the NBA poker table. They keep firing bullets and force those in the hand to either fold and cut their losses — or shove all the chips in the middle and see who truly has the better hand.
Paul improves the Rockets significantly. And perhaps vaults them over the San Antonio Spurs. Bolstering their stack with Anthony would leave them as the second-most feared team in the Western Conference. If somehow, some way, these three stars can hit the ground running, it’s conceivable the Rockets could push the Warriors to the limit. Limit meaning a sixth, or perhaps seventh game in a playoff series.
How is this going to work? How will three players who love to handle the basketball — and two who never met a shot they didn’t like — learn to co-exist? Harden’s contract could be a clue.
This is his team. He is the man. Paul, a true point guard, may take the ball up the court, but it’s Harden who must be game-planned against. There are definitely risks involved with moving him to the two-guard months after he enjoyed his best season as a point guard.
But if you’re going to make that move, Paul is the perfect guy to assume the reins. He can facilitate for Harden and Anthony, slashing into mid-range jumper territory. Mike D’Antoni’s offense is three-point-friendly, so perhaps Paul will be a more willing shooter from beyond the arc.
As for Anthony, heading South would be his last-gasp chance at meaningful team success. Skeptics will have to see a reformed Melo before they believe he’s a willing Robin to Harden’s Batman, but it would behoove the Rockets to get a commitment he’ll do so before pulling the trigger.
A willingly deferential Anthony would a sight to behold and, perhaps, a more productive version.
Houston may be the next superteam, with three future Hall of Famers and one basketball. This huge contract shows Daryl Morey and company believe Harden capable of being the ringleader.
Call me naive but I’m optimistic it can work. And a major part of that is because of Golden State and the near insurmountable challenge they present. The margin for error is so thin that the triple-headed monster will have to act as one. Harden’s versatility — the ability to play on or off the ball — is a huge reason he’s now the league’s highest-paid player.
Let’s see how versatile he can be with other marquee, veteran names.