While the rest of the league has moved away from isolation basketball because of its low rate of return, the Rockets have played more isolation possessions than anyone else. In the past 15 games, they’ve played at the slowest pace in the NBA. They’ve gone 14-1, with Harden and Paul making turnstyles of their opponents while the surrounding floor-spacers largely standing around and watching. There’s a method to the monotony. Harden and Paul generate 1.24 and 1.13 points per possession, respectively when they isolate and score. The Rockets, as a team, score 1.13 points per possession in isolation. How efficient is that? The Clippers, the next-best isolation team in the NBA, garner 1.02 points per play on half the frequency.
More importantly, they run an NBA-low 16.1 miles per game, and the difference between them and second-place Minnesota is as large as the difference between second and 13th. The Rockets’ average speed, on both offense and defense, is by far slowest in the league, which you probably wouldn’t expect given their reputation as a high-octane offensive machine. The reality is that Harden, Paul, and Capela — with whom the Rockets are 38-2 — are often running a three-man motion offense within an offense, while a mishmash of interchangeable wings chill and watch.
This has conspired to make the Rockets an ideal spot for veterans to succeed. Less movement means less wear-and-tear on the body, lending a new air of ruthless efficiency to a team that has defined it in the modern era. “We got a lot of guys that have been in the league for 10-plus years,” midseason acquisition Joe Johnson told SB Nation. “That’s ideal for me. I think it gives the coaching staff a sense of how to work with us, so to speak, as opposed to having a bunch of young guys, you bring them to practice, you run them, you kill them. We don’t need that.”
According to DICK’S Sporting Goods Jersey Report, Curry’s jersey sales are greater than the ones for LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. Curry’s teammate, Kevin Durant, is third overall in jersey sales. Here’s the full list from DICK’s: 1. Stephen Curry; 2. LeBron James; 3. Kevin Durant; 4. Russell Westbook; 5. Kristaps Porzingis; 6. Kyrie Irving; 7. Joel Embiid; 8. James Harden; 9. Giannis Antetokounmpo; 10. Kawhi Leonard.
“He’s a hell of a player, first off,” D’Antoni said when asked to explain his declaration. “It’s a combination of everything. There are other players who might be better at this, or a little bit better at that. But when you put everything together, and the way he passes, the way he sees teammates, the way he can lob, the way he can fight through a foul. I mean even on an off night, he’s probably getting 30, 40 points, and I mean efficiently. And he doesn’t even have anything going. But he’s so efficient, and he gets other guys involved. … He’s got one flaw. He does get tired some. He’s mortal. And that’s it. Other than that …”
“I mean to me it’s just clear cut he should be the MVP,” said Rockets guard Eric Gordon, who had 18 points against the Blazers to match his season-long average that is third on the team behind Harden and Paul. “He’s scoring. He’s passing. And to me, the efficiency is just there. You know, whenever there’s a tight game, he’s just hitting the tough shots. I just don’t know what else you want from a guy like that.
Storyline: MVP Race