The Houston Rockets chose to trade Chris Paul to the OKC Thunder before last season to pair up James Harden with former MVP Russell Westbrook. However, after a second-round exit in their first NBA season and the departures of coach Mike D'Antoni and GM Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets might be losing one or even their two former MVP winners. Let's look at the five reasons why Russell Westbrook and James Harden can't work as teammates.
NBA Trade Rumors: 5 reasons why Russell Westbrook and James Harden can't work as teammates on the Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets had a 44-28 record in the 2019-20 NBA season, and they barely got out of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the OKC Thunder before falling in five games against the eventual champions LA Lakers.
Moreover, the team had elected to go all-out on their small-ball approach, trading Clint Capela and having no real big men on their roster. Now, with D'Antoni and Morey out of the Houston Rockets organization, the team is left with a mystery on what their identity will be in the future, and it might be uncomfortable for Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
More recently, rumors about Westbrook and Harden not wanting to play together have surfaced, and reports of Westbrook wanting to leave the Houston Rockets have been published too.
Russell Westbrook shut down the rumors about his relationship with Harden, calling the drama 'completely fabricated', but there are reasons to think the pairing will not last long. Still, even if their relationship is not bad, they could not work last year, and the tendency could easily continue if they are still together next season with the Houston Rockets.
Without further ado, let us discuss the five reasons why Russell Westbrook and James Harden can't work as teammates for the Houston Rockets.
Russell Westbrook did not fit D'Antoni's system
Of course, Mike D'Antoni and his fast-paced, three-point shooting philosophy will not be a problem for Russell Westbrook next year, but it certainly was not the right fit during the Houston Rockets' 2019-20 season.
James Harden was used to playing in D'Antoni's system, which made him the MVP of the league. It was right for his approach, as he had the ball in his hands every play, for almost the entirety of the shot clock, and was surrounded by three-point shooters.
The system did not suit Russell Westbrook, as he cannot play off the ball. He is also not a good three-point shooter (30% in his career on 3P shots — 25% last year). Westbrook still found a way to be effective, but the Houston Rockets were built for three-point shooters.
Both are ball-dominant players
Russell Westbrook and James Harden are both ball-dominant players who need to have the ball almost every time.
Of course, they had their fair share of shots last year, with James Harden averaging 22.3 FG attempts per game (second-highest in his career), while Westbrook averaged 22.5 shots per game (second-highest of his career too — and the Houston Rockets' highest of the season).
It is not usual to see a teammate of James Harden shooting more than The Beard, but it is usual to see Russell Westbrook shooting more than a superstar teammate.
Though they had their personal numbers mostly untouched, it was not great for the Houston Rockets.