James Harden

Warriors rookie Eric Paschall calls James Harden 'food' after and-1

Warriors rookie Eric Paschall calls James Harden 'food' after and-1

Eric Paschall is feeling himself. 

The Warriors rookie scored more points in his first three NBA starts (79) than any player since Jeremy Lin (89) lit up Madison Square Garden. Paschall led Golden State, sans injured stars Draymond Green, D'Angelo Russell, Stephen Curry and Klay Tompson, into Houston on Thursday to face James Harden and the Rockets, and the rookie was not intimidated. 

Paschall went right at Harden in the second quarter, drawing an and-1 on an insolation play against the 2017-18 NBA MVP and jawing at him after. 

Paschall even raised the roof in celebration after a dunk later in the second quarter, but the food got to eating soon after.

[RELATED: Warriors-Rockets rivalry feels different with young Dubs]

The Rockets closed out the first half on a 23-8 run after Paschall's trash talk. Harden scored 13 himself and assisted on two more baskets. 

The rookie learned a valuable lesson: Don't poke the beard. 

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Steve Kerr explains why Warriors can't turn Steph Curry into James Harden

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USATSI

Steve Kerr explains why Warriors can't turn Steph Curry into James Harden

If you've been pounding the table for the Warriors to run considerably more ball screens for Steph Curry, well, keep pounding.

It doesn't sound like you'll get your wish anytime soon -- or at least not to the extent that you'd like.

Coach Steve Kerr made that clear Monday ahead of the Warriors' game against the Pelicans, in which he laid out the reasons as to why Golden State can't construct the same sort of offense that, say, Houston uses with James Harden.

"I don't know that it's that simple," Kerr said at his pregame media availability in New Orleans. "We could turn [Curry] into James Harden and give him the ball every play, but that's really hard to do. You have to build a team for that. Houston has put five shooters on the floor for years now with Harden to give him that space. We don't have that kind of personnel. There's not the same spacing.

"That kind of basketball wears you out, too, especially for a guy who is 180 pounds like Steph is. So, I don't think the answer is just run a million high screens. We don't really have the personnel for that."

All right, a couple good points there. As if the Warriors' first two games didn't make it overwhelmingly obvious, they don't exactly possess the depth of talent that the Rockets do. And nobody would ever confuse Curry's body type for Harden's. They're simply built differently. But that doesn't mean the Warriors shouldn't find ways to put Curry into more advantageous positions more often.

"I don't think it makes a ton of sense from Steph's standpoint," Kerr continued. "What we have to figure out is how can we free him up better. Those are the things we are exploring every day. How can we free him up without having the floor-spacing bigs that are popular around the league. So, trying to create space, trying to create penetration, trying to create clean looks and an offensive rhythm within all that.

"That's the challenge. That's what we're working on."

[RELATED: Warriors have been plagued by defensive laziness thus far]

Clearly, the Warriors haven't started their season how they'd hoped, and they're still figuring out things on offense (and defense, for that matter). Don't expect Golden State to turn into the West Coast Rockets, but also don't be surprised if you start seeing an alteration in the way Curry is being used.

Why to expect Warriors' Steph Curry to have James Harden-like season

Why to expect Warriors' Steph Curry to have James Harden-like season

What are reasonable expectations for Steph Curry this NBA season?

That's a question The Ringer's Zach Kram set out to answer Tuesday and based on his findings, MVP voters better take notice.

Why? Because the most fitting comparison for what to expect from the Warriors guard this season, according to Kram, is the player who finished runner-up in MVP voting last season and won it the year before that.

That's right. Based on what Curry has averaged per 75 possessions without either Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson on the floor over the last three seasons, we can expect his 2019-20 season to mirror that of James Harden's in 2018-19.

That's a high bar, considering the Houston Rockets star produced the second-highest scoring average (36.1 ppg) in NBA history by any player not named Wilt Chamberlain last season. But Kram has data to back up his assertion.

Over the last three seasons (regular season and playoffs combined), Curry has played 1,214 minutes with both Durant and Thompson off the floor. Given that Durant now plays for the Nets and Thompson is expected to miss most -- if not all -- of the 2019-20 season, that's an accurate representation of the situation Curry will find himself in this year.

And, if we break those minutes down into possessions, the comparison between Curry's upcoming season and the one Harden just had becomes much tougher to deny.

"These two stat lines -- Curry’s per-75-possession numbers without Durant and Thompson ... Harden’s overall numbers in the 2018-19 regular season," Kram wrote, "are eerily similar, down to the exact same true shooting percentage."

See for yourself.

 

Image: The Ringer, Zach Kram

Eerily similar, indeed.

As you can see, Curry is quite capable of producing a one-man show; he simply hasn't been in a situation where that was required over the last three seasons. But with Thompson rehabbing, Durant and Andre Iguodala elsewhere and Shaun Livingston retired, it's a brand-new world for Curry and the Warriors, and Golden State might need him to claim it as his own to make another postseason run.

Consider this: Harden had a usage rate of 40.5 percent last season (the second-highest in NBA history), but throughout his career, Curry has never used more than 32.6 percent of the Warriors possessions in any single season. By the way, that career-high came in 2015-16, when Curry became the first unanimous MVP in league history.

With Golden State's revamped roster, it's not just reasonable to expect Curry to produce his highest usage rate ever in the season ahead; it likely will be required. His 2019 preseason numbers only support that assumption.

Over four preseason games, Curry averaged career-highs in shot attempts, 3-point attempts, free-throw attempts and points per possession. Per 75 possessions, he averaged 35 points and converted 43 percent of his 12-plus 3-point attempts per game -- numbers very much in line with Curry's per-75 possession averages without Durant and Thompson over the last three seasons.

Now, obviously, there are other factors to consider. Curry's new backcourt partner D'Angelo Russell will have the ball in his hands quite often as well, and the degree to which Russell is effective will have an impact on how much is required of Curry. Of course, it's worth mentioning that Harden played alongside a ball-dominant guard in Chris Paul each of the last two seasons.

[RELATED: Watch Brian Shaw highlight how Steph, D-Lo fit on Warriors]

We don't know what to expect from the Warriors this season. But if Curry provides what we can reasonably expect from him, it will provide both him and Golden State with the chance to add some more hardware.