While the Patrick Ewing paradox could have worked in Chris Paul's favor post his Houston Rockets departure, Jimmy Butler has made the Miami Heat relevant again after leaving the Philadelphia 76ers due to the team's poor work ethic.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Houston Rockets and Miami Heat vs Philadelphia 76ers are two great playoff storylines waiting to happen.
James Harden-Chris Paul beef: A deciding factor in Paul being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder
According to Yahoo reporter Vincent Goodwill, James Harden and Chris Paul largely disagreed on the Houston Rockets’ playing style. Paul never agreed with Mike D’Antoni’s iso ball approach that James Harden thrived off of and losing the playoff elimination drove him to request a trade.
However, before leaving, James Harden refused repeated communication attempts from Chris Paul and reportedly passed a ‘him or me’ edict in the off-season.
While lack of scoring redistribution has always been the reason behind Houston Rockets’ unsuccessful playoff stints, ESPN’s Tim MacMohan reported that Paul ran his offense through other teammates and preferred their leading scorer James Harden benched.
It was later labelled as a story fabricated by the media, but on-court chemistry was visibly deteriorating in the Houston Rockets team and James Harden slapping away Chris Paul’s hand aggravated the situation.
Shortly after the off-season drama unfolded and Chris Paul was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Houston Rockets GM stated poor efficiency and age as the reasons behind the trade.
Are the Oklahoma City Thunder equipped enough to beat the Houston Rockets in the playoffs?
Chris Paul has been absolutely phenomenal with the Oklahoma City Thunder this year running his offense through a young core, with his high basketball IQ on the court leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a better seed in the Western Conference when compared to Houston Rockets, who have two former league MVPs.
The Oklahoma City Thunder boast of a better relative defensive rating of -1.4, while the Houston Rockets have managed a mere -0.1 rating this season. Defying the Houston Rockets GM’s excuses for the trade, Chris Paul has performed better offensively with 17.7 points at .557 efficiency, which is close to a career-high for him.
However, the million-dollar question is - ‘Do the Oklahoma City Thunder stand a real chance against the Houston Rockets?’
Besides having a better seed in the Western Conference (even though they have the same W-L record), the Houston Rockets faced defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder twice in the regular season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder restricted almost all players on Houston’s roster to a negative +/-, limiting them to abysmally low efficiencies. James Harden tallied 17 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in this game at 29.4% efficiency - one game which could be a season low for him.
In addition, the Houston Rockets don’t have an answer for Steven Adams since they have traded Clint Capela. Their small ball lineup is a huge gamble as the offense entirely rests on James Harden’s shoulders. Chris Paul reportedly complained about Harden’s lack of movement without the ball and reluctance to pass the ball even when locked up.
The Houston Rockets have a history of disappointing post-seasons, while nothing about the revamped Oklahoma City Thunder can be said. The Oklahoma City Thunder may not be the title favourites, but they can cause serious damage to top playoff contenders like the Houston Rockets.
The Philadelphia 76ers were not playing for the championship: Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler
Much like the Chris Paul-Houston Rockets scenario, Jimmy Butler’s issues with the Philadelphia 76ers came to a head after the playoffs. However, his differences with the team he is playing for are a common pattern.
Butler has forced his way out of the Chicago Bulls, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Philadelphia 76ers. He was reportedly unhappy with Philly’s usage of him offensively and the lack of pick-and-roll system. He is said to have gone head-to-head with Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown about his offensive duties, but didn’t reach a satisfactory conclusion.
In addition, he felt that the Philadelphia 76ers were not motivated enough to win a championship and sensed a poor work ethic from ‘prominent’ players on the team. After a devastating game 7 loss to the Toronto Raptors last season, he held on to his first chance to leave the Philadelphia 76ers through a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat.
The Miami Heat have thrived under Butler's leadership, while the Philadelphia 76ers have struggled
Jimmy Butler, with the assistance of some excellent rookies and MIP award favourite Bam Adebayo, has brought the Miami Heat back to relevance. Butler has managed to diversify his game after joining the Miami Heat, and is averaging a career-high 6.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game.
He has definitely found his groove with the Miami Heat and has led them to the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. The Philadelphia 76ers, on the other hand, are trailing behind at the 6th seed. The Miami Heat came out on top in 3 out of the 4 games they played against the Philadelphia 76ers, which could be a foreshadowing of a possible playoff match-up.
The Philadelphia 76ers offense has suffered gravely when compared to last season. They have a -0.1 relative offensive rating, whereas the Miami Heat boast of a +2.2 relative offensive rating this season with emerging rookies like Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro.
Bam Adebayo has been key to the Miami Heat’s victories, and has contributed considerably to their defense. Looking at regular season performances, the Miami Heat are certainly expected to have the edge in any potential playoff match-ups against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Published 03 Aug 2020, 00:19 IST