If James Harden continues to play like he’s played in his first two games with the Rockets, the trade that brought him to Houston may eventually be seen as one of the most one-sided in NBA history.
It’s early, of course, and finances were the motivation in Oklahoma City, where Harden didn’t (and wouldn’t) have nearly the value he would on a team like the Rockes. In Houston, he could be the primary ball-handler and scoring option for a team that didn’t already have, say, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook taking up the bulk of those opportunities in the starting lineup.
Still, Harden has been fantastic in his first two starts, and his new career high of 45 points in Atlanta came on just 19 (!) field goal attempts.
Harden is in a perfect situation as a Rocket, playing alongside capable point guard Jeremy Lin, who put up 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished out seven assists. Lin and Harden both played 40 minutes, which you’d think can’t be a regular occurrence over the course of an 82-game season, But early on, as the team is still forging its identity, why not?
Harden has the luxury of playing on or off the ball with Lin by his side, so when defenses eventually start throwing doubles at him to get the ball out of his hands, head coach Kevin McHale can design some sets to find other ways to get him the rock.
That’ll likely come sooner rather than later. For now, the Rockets went from a team that unconscionably blew up its competitive squad of a season ago to one that might be even better this year — and with Harden in the fold, a lot more fun to watch.
The Pistons have just 14 players – one shy of the regular-season roster limit – with guaranteed salaries. The final spot will very likely go to a point guard.
Brown and McCallum should be favored in the competition, because they’re more NBA-ready. A president/coach, Stan Van Gundy is more prone to covet the player who can step in immediately.
Freeman’s partial guarantee is likely designed to entice him to play in the D-League for a low base salary. The Pistons can waive him in the preseason and then assign his D-League rights to their affiliate, though he’d become an NBA free agent.
Freeman is working to become a better distributor after playing as a go-to scorer in college. A solid mid-range shooter, he must extend his range beyond the arc. It’d also help if he got to the rim more, and it seems he has the bounce to do that.
For an undrafted player, he has nice tools. They’ll probably just need to be refined in the D-League.
But even if that’s the intention, Freeman at least gives himself a chance first of upsetting Brown and McCallum in the race for third point guard.
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