The Houston Rockets made a bold statement with the Chris Paul trade earlier this week. However, as good as the backcourt will be they may have given up too much. Stars don’t necessarily win championships alone. It’s the role players that must step up and provide the occasional lift throughout a season. But when the playoffs start, everything changes. Shots get a little tight, defense gets a little tougher and some players vanish. This is what Chris Paul has to shake. He has to show that he’s ready to lead. But for the Rockets to contend, they will need some help in the post. Enter Nerlens Noel.
Last season, the Rockets won 55 games on the strength of James Harden, a productive bench, and hustle from players like Trevor Ariza and Clint Capela. Well, things will look a bit different in 2017 with the addition of Paul but the Rockets are still lacking the one thing that could put them ahead of the Golden State Warriors.
A rim protector and rebounder.
Noel is not Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan. But what he is– is a player who will go the extra mile while staying in his lane. Noel understands his place on a team. To pair his defensive and rebounding skills with the offensive firepower of Harden and Paul will put the Rockets in a position they haven’t seen since the days of Kenny Smith and Hakeem Olajuwon. I won’t go as far as to say they will have a Dynasty in the making but for a team that was close– Noel could put them over the top.
The offense will still come from the likely sources of Harden, Paul. Ariza and Eric Gordon. However, an added presence from Noel in the post will make opponents think twice about driving the lane. Harden is a magician on the offensive end, however, his defense lacks the intensity to push the Rockets through. This is where Paul will fill in the blanks. But what happens in the post will determine how far the Rockets go next season.
Capela, nor Ryan Anderson lit the NBA on fire with their rebounding or shot blocking abilities leading Houston to be one of the worst defensive teams in the league. The Rockets averaged 115 points per game but gave up 109. Thanks to Harden they were able to close out a few close ones but imagine what a player like Noel could do for them.
Noel averaged 9 points, 7 rebounds and 1 block in 22 games for the Dallas Mavericks in 2016. However, he only played 22 minutes per. While his numbers may be on par with Anderson and Capela’s, it’s worth noting that the Rockets ran an uptempo offense where their bigs were shifting in/out of the lineup. This is what also hurt them during the playoffs. For a team to be successful, they must go into the postseason with a set rotation of at least 8-9 players. Mike D’Antoni tried to play regular season ball when he should have played playoff ball.
Adding Noel to pair with Capela will give the Houston Rockets the necessary toughness needed to harass Draymond Green and keep Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson out of the paint. The offensive will handle itself but the team must be aware on the defensive side of the ball.