The slow start to the Houston Rockets’ season is clearly more than a poor fit for Carmelo Anthony. In fact, the All-Star duo of Chris Paul and James Harden has had difficulties finding the same success they had a season ago as one of the NBA’s most dangerous backcourts, with some scouts even noticing Paul might have lost a step or two, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
Some rival scouts and executives have whispered that Paul, 33, looks as if he has lost a little bit of juice. “He seems a little step slow,” one scout said, which would be a huge issue for a Houston offense that depends heavily on Harden and Paul dominating off the dribble. But Paul points out that he hasn’t had a problem creating shots, just making them.
Paul might just be shaking off the early-season rust, as his two recent performances were the only ones in which he has shot above 50 percent from the field since the first two games of the season, prior to his two-game suspension.
Perhaps the best viewpoint is his inconsistency throughout each game, as he has looked like the dime maestro who commanded a four-year, $160 million deal from the Rockets in the summer in some games, but has looked less engaged in some other games.
Paul is averaging 17.6 points on 41.9 percent shooting from the field and 34.8 percent from deep — a rarity for one of the NBA’s most efficient point guards. Paul’s assist totals have massively regressed since teaming up with Harden, another ball-dominant player who gets the bulk of the playmaking duties.
Paul’s average of 7.5 assists is the lowest since his rookie year in the league, and one worth keeping an eye on as he ages in this partnership with The Beard. Paul’s game is expected to age well, as he relies on his intellect more than his athleticism, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see if he has lost a little pep to his step at 33 years old. It also doesn’t help that he has been dealing with a nagging elbow injury.