Yet, according to Jonathan Feigen of UltimateRockets.com, coach Kevin McHale plans to place the reigning Sixth Man of the Year into the starting lineup and employ a fast-paced offense led by Harden and point guard Jeremy Lin.
Simply put, for a team as young as the Rockets that is entering a rebuilding phase, playing a run-and-gun offense is a recipe for disaster and will do nothing but keep the team well out of contention in the competitive Western Conference. As fun as that type of game may be to watch, it's a gamble that Houston cannot afford to take.
When we think of the ultimate run-and-gun team, one squad that immediately comes to mind is the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns. Coached by offensive guru Mike D'Antoni, they won 62 games that year before losing to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. The fast game was fun to watch, but sacrificed defense in favor of shooting the lights out. Still, the players themselves weren't bad at all.
Future Hall of Famer Steve Nash ran the point while also putting up great shooting numbers, and his fellow starters were as follows: Amar'e Stoudemire at center, Shawn Marion at power forward, Quentin Richardson at small forward and Joe Johnson at shooting guard. That season, all five men averaged double-digit points per game, with Stoudemire leading the way with 26.
Still, each of those players was naturally talented on offense, and in Houston the rest of the team besides Lin and Harden is fairly limited in that department.
Even Lin can be considered limited offensively as he did well playing for the Knicks last year when D'Antoni was still coach, but most of his success can be attributed to playing without Carmelo Anthony and the aforementioned Stoudemire in the lineup. Once they returned, Lin and the team as a whole struggled.
That said, let's have a look at the rest of the starting lineup that will be on the floor with Lin and Harden.
Second-year player Chandler Parsons is at small forward, and his offensive game is still developing despite his outside shot being above average. Patrick Patterson is expected to start at power forward, but he has yet to fully adjust to the professional level and isn't the same explosive inside presence he was at Kentucky. That leaves Omer Asik at center, and he just shouldn't be starting in the NBA period.
The bench is comprised of young and untested players like Terrence Jones, Royce White and JaJuan Johnson, plus veteran Carlos Delfino. At this point, none of these men have shown that they can be impact players in a run-and-gun system, especially since most of them do their best work on defense.
That brings us to Harden, who was used to a regular-paced game in Oklahoma City. Yes, he's a great scorer/shooter, but he isn't the type to run up and down the court at full speed possession after possession after possession. He's a lot like Carmelo Anthony in that his best work comes when he is allowed to hold the ball and let his court-vision do the rest, not married to a repetitive pick-and-roll game.
If Harden sticks to his plan of signing a long-term extension with Houston, he will find himself regretting that move once the team crashes and burns thanks to McHale's system.
That all being said, it's just plain silly for the Rockets to play a run-and-gun game. The team is chock full of defensive players not used to playing a fast-paced game, save for Lin, and to suddenly have them all become shooters or scorers overnight just doesn't make sense.
Yes, the Rockets may be in a rebuilding phase, but one thing is certain: If the team opts for high-octane offense in favor of a balanced or defensive approach that utilizes their players' greatest strengths, then Houston will have quite a problem on its hands.
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