Daryl Morey

Why Rockets, Warriors would never entertain idea of James Harden trade

Why Rockets, Warriors would never entertain idea of James Harden trade

James Harden, Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets became obsessed with beating the Warriors. They did everything in their power to take down the NBA's goliath, and likely would have in the 2018 Western Conference finals had Chris Paul not injured in hamstring at the end of Game 5. 

Alas, Harden never got to celebrate defeating the Dubs when it mattered. But, you know what they say, if you can't beat them, join them. At least, that's what Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix posited in his bold NBA prediction for the next decade. Now, they call them bold predictions for a reason, and there's no way Mannix actually thinks the Rockets would trade Harden, their beloved superstar, to their mortal enemy for D'Angelo Russell and the likely top-five draft pick the Warriors will have from their current down season.

But let's examine the idea -- one that would only take place in the bored mind of a teenager playing 2K -- for what it's worth.

Yes, the departure of Kevin Durant left the Warriors with a gaping hole in their lineup, one that can't easily be filled. The trio of Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson was the most lethal offensive attack in NBA history. When at full strength, the Dubs were unguardable and almost unbeatable. 

Adding Harden would, on paper, give the Warriors another dynamic scoring trio that would be unrivaled in today's NBA. But for all of Harden's scoring talents, of which he has many, the ball-dominant, high-usage game that he has crafted and perfected while running the show under Morey's analytically-focused gaze wouldn't fit with the beautiful ball the Warriors play when they are at their best. The ball Durant left Oklahoma City to come and play.

That's not to say Harden couldn't adapt his game and fit in. Of course, he could. He's an MVP and one of the greatest scorers in league history. But trying to jam Harden into a Steve Kerr offense that is predicated on ball movement, cutting and making the defense scramble would be the equivalent of acquiring the best man-to-man cover corner in the NFL and asking him to play zone. You'd be zapping him of what he does best or you'd be throwing your offense out of sync by letting him do his thing.

Remember the outrage when Durant would go into iso mode and the ball would stick, causing the Warriors' offense to stagnate? That would be on steroids if it happened with Harden, a guy who hasn't won a title and is more or less reviled by Dubs fans, doing so in the Bay. 

Yes, in order to win high-pressure games, you need a guy who can get his own shot, get to the rim and create for others. But Harden's game often becomes predictable, especially in the playoffs. The Warriors have shown if you funnel him into the same situation over and over again then eventually his decisions are easy to dissect and he becomes much easier to stop during crunch time. 

When the pressure is ratcheted up, Kerr and the Warriors trust their system to get them the looks they need to win the game. It's worked time and time again. In a contrast of styles, the Warriors' way of doing things has led to titles, while Harden pounding the ball into the floor for 18 seconds has led to ... disappointment and playoff exits.

[RELATED: Where Warriors stand in first 2020 power rankings]

From a Rockets standpoint, Houston could lose out, finish the season 40 games below .500, every Chick-fil-A and Beck's Prime could close and Morey still isn't going to trade his superstar to his nemesis in order to rebuild around Russell Westbrook, D'Angelo Russell and James Wiseman or LaMelo Ball.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

It would be akin to LeBron James joining ... well, the Warriors.

Much like Batman and The Joker, the Warriors and Harden are destined to battle forever.

Daryl Morey: Rockets beat Warriors in 2018 West finals seven of 10 times

Daryl Morey: Rockets beat Warriors in 2018 West finals seven of 10 times

The 2018 Western Conference finals was an epic battle between the Warriors and Rockets.

In the end, Golden State overcame a three-games-to-two series deficit and prevailed by winning Game 7 in Houston.

In the most recent episode of the "Book of Basketball 2.0" podcast, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey discussed that matchup with Bill Simmons.

When Simmons said, "If you played that series 10 times, I think you win six," Morey took it one step further.

"Six or seven," he declared. "I'd say seven but if you went to Vegas they'd say more like six."

To quote HBO's John Oliver:

"Cool."

Let's start by saying that Morey is incredible at his job and is one of the best GMs in the NBA.

But what is he talking about? He clearly is basing his statement on historical information and data relating to the fact that the Rockets had homecourt advantage and won 65 regular-season games compared to Golden State's 58 victories.

But those analytics ignore the fact that the Warriors backpedaled into the playoffs after dealing with a plethora of injuries over the final month of the season. Remember, Steph Curry sprained his knee and missed 16 of the last 17 games, plus the first-round series against the Spurs and Game 1 of the West semis against the Pelicans.

Losing Chris Paul at the end of Game 5 obviously was a massive variable, but Morey hurt his case when he said: "Steve Kerr took some heat for talking about (Andre) Iguodala being out. But he was right. Iguodala was so, so good for them that year. He actually was a very key player against us in particular, which I think is why Steve talked about it.

"Obviously, we were like, 'Well, boohoo. You have four All-Star level guys, five if you count Iguodala.' That's true, but Iguodala is a very important player in beating us at the time."

Correct.

The Warriors took a two-games-to-one series lead by crushing the Rockets by 41 points in Game 3, but they lost the 2015 NBA Finals MVP for the rest of the series after he sustained a "spider fracture" in his left leg.

So if Iguodala doesn't get hurt and both teams are completely healthy, would that change Morey's calculations? Or is his "six or seven" statement based on the Rockets being ahead in the series three games to two, and leading by 17 points at the end of the first quarter in Game 6? (And then leading by 13 points early in the third quarter of Game 7.)

[RELATEDRockets GM Morey trolls Kerr by tweeting article from 2016]

Also, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the memo the Rockets created that claimed the referees cost them the championship.

Ultimately, you can't blame Morey for still being extremely frustrated that Houston fell short in 2018. Likewise, you can't blame him for being upset that the Rockets couldn't beat the Kevin Durant-less Warriors in last year's Western Conference semifinals.

Fortunately for Morey and his squad, the Warriors won't be in their way this year. 

No excuses.

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Why Warriors' Steph Curry should chuckle at James Harden's complaining

hardencurryap.jpg
AP

Why Warriors' Steph Curry should chuckle at James Harden's complaining

Do the Rockets ever stop complaining?

The same franchise that used faulty math as the basis of a memo to the league in which it argued that officiating cost Houston the 2018 championship was back at it again Friday night, and some of the same principal offenders were at the center of the controversy.

No, not Rockets GM Daryl Morey. He has been in enough hot water as it is.

Instead, I'm referring to James Harden, who continues to only have himself to blame for the fact that his playing style isn't as enjoyed by the masses as some of his contemporaries.

The flopping, kicking, flailing and bending of the rules is annoying enough, but made worse by the fact that he gets away with it more often than not. This season, Harden is averaging 38.3 points per game, 8.0 more than anyone else in the league. He is also averaging 14.4 free-throw attempts per contest; there's only one other NBA player in double-digits, and only eight averaging at least half as many attempts. Put simply, he might not get all of the calls that he deserves -- no one does -- but he gets a friendlier whistle than almost anyone else.

And to Harden's credit, it wasn't the officiating that was at the center of his voiced complaint Friday night after the Rockets' last-minute loss to the Clippers -- although Houston didn't waste an opportunity to point out an apparent infraction by Los Angeles head coach Doc Rivers. No, it wasn't the officiating that Harden thought was unfair; rather, it was the ... defense?

Harden dished out 12 assists in the loss to go along with his game-high 37 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field. Consequently, the Clippers threw numerous double-teams at him to try to limit his effectiveness and get the ball out of his hands -- you know, as defenses do. And even then, there were times when he caught fire and Los Angeles had no answer for him, no matter how many bodies were thrown at him. But apparently, that didn't sit well with Harden.

"The whole season they’re running doubles teams at me," Harden told media in the locker room. "I’ve never seen that in an NBA game where you’ve got really good defenders and someone else running at the top of the key. Y’all let me know the last time you’ve seen that."

All right, who wants to tell him?

By the looks of the responses to that tweet, it appears many have already done so. The last time we've seen that? Really?

The Warriors have knocked the Rockets out of the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, including twice in the conference finals. It would be understandable if it was too painful for Harden to then watch the NBA Finals, but he can't act like they didn't happen.

Need I remind you that Toronto utilized a 'Box-and-one' defense against Golden State in the Finals, a kind of defense that is sparingly used even at the collegiate level. The Raptors assigned one player to chase Steph Curry at all times while the rest of the team played a zone defense. He was never left alone, and it proved to be a very effective defensive strategy.

And it's not like that's the only instance. Far from it. Curry, like most NBA superstars, frequently has been doubled, just as Harden is now. The difference is, Curry, nor any of the NBA greats, ever complained about it, and why would they? After all, it's a sign of respect.

Harden has been to the Finals once with the Thunder, and who knows, he and the Rockets might get back there with the Warriors at least temporarily out of the way.

[RELATED: Warriors, resigned to their fate, smart to be looking ahead]

But as long as he and Houston continue to act like they're getting the short end of the stick, they're not going to get much sympathy.

Nor should they.