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3 ways Russell Westbrook can make James Harden even better

Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Rockets

As the end of free agency comes to a close, we are seeing how the league’s 30 teams will present themselves this year. For many, the rosters will look very different. The Houston Rockets are part of this group.

With the acquisition of former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook, James Harden unites with his close friend from the infamous 2011 Thunder roster. Many saw the immediate impact of this as detrimental to the Rockets offense; I loved the move. Nine years later, both players have been putting up numbers they couldn’t have imagined. That said, it could actually benefit James Harden more than Russell Westbrook.

Here are three reasons why.

 

James Harden will attract less attention

Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook are both exceptional point guards, but with different traits. For example, CP3 provides a more patient approach to the game: he is more focused on making plays for others than forcing shots for himself. On the other hand, Westbrook comes into his inaugural season in a non-OKC uniform coming off a campaign that saw him shoot 29% from three. The last time he shot that poorly from behind the arc? His second NBA season.

However, his subpar at best perimeter efficiency won’t cause confusion in defenses. With elite athleticism and court vision that isn’t duplicated by many in the history of the NBA, the Rockets will no longer have one go-to option on every possession. For years, it’s just been James Harden as “the guy.” With the addition of Westbrook, Houston adds an offensive weapon who can help create looks for Harden on drive-and-kick situations and fastbreak outlet passes.

Whether Westbrook is public enemy #1 in your eyes or not, his talent and impact on the court cannot be denied. Back to back seasons averaging a triple-double. Consistently ranking in the top-5 for usage percentage. Clutch moments. Exciting moments. Career-defining moments. Needless to say, Westbrook is a problem that will garner the attention of opposing guards.

 

Russell Westbrook will push James Harden’s work ethic

And to an all-time high for his illustrious career…

Ask former coaches, teammates, and friends: James Harden and Russell Westbrook are humble in their work ethic and have earned every dime on their contracts. Stapled in as All-NBA every summer, they may land on the first team together in the next couple of seasons. In a loaded West, they’ll push each other and their teammates to work harder all the time–on and off the court, in practice, and during games.

Whether it’s crafting a new move (Harden’s euro step) or gaining a consistent jump shot (*insert Russell Westbrook’s three-point percentage*), the two friends are always looking to add more tricks to their bag. As they play off each other in competitive games again, they’ll be able to sync again. And if their games don’t click at first, then they’ll work on it. If Westbrook isn’t seeing Harden on defense, I hope he will call him out on it– the effort is everything.

Russell is looking for results and is looking to win his first title. He’s hungry and will work harder than anyone, and The Beard is no exception to this.

 

Russell Westbrook will allow James Harden’s stepback to thrive even more

Let me explain…

Both have called for many isolations these last seven years–they had the two highest amounts of iso plays this past season. Now sure, most were quick to assume that arguments would begin early in the year regarding decision-making in clutch time. However, what people didn’t remember was that these two are incredible friends with a very special bond. They’ll talk through the situations and come up with a plan to benefit themselves, as well as the others.

Russell Westbrook understands that the Rockets are James Harden’s team, and will be until they retire his #13 in the rafters. He also understands that James Harden’s stepback is the single deadliest weapon in the NBA currently.

This isn’t a discussion, by the way. This is a fact.

Another fact: Russell Westbrook often stat-pads, and doesn’t mind watching his teammates succeed when able to–it’s why he’s a great teammate himself.

With that being said, Russ will allow James Harden to use that stepback on less talented defenders this season. His anticipation of seeing a mismatch before it happens in a play will be huge. Westbrook will run plays to put Harden on an island with a slower, less mobile defender. With Westbrook giving Harden this, James may exceed his 55% on stepback threes this year.