The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers have reportedly come to an agreement on a trade that will send Chris Paul to the Rockets.
The Rockets will become one of the league’s most fascinating teams next season, combining two All-Star point guards in James Harden and Paul in the same back-court.
Besides for questions over Harden and Paul splitting bal-handling duties, another interesting subplot may be how Paul’s shot selection fits in the Rockets’ offence.
The Rockets are notoriously analytically driven and use an offensive philosophy that eschews mid-range shots and deep twos for shots in the paint and three-pointers — the two most efficient shots in basketball. The Rockets led the league in three-pointers attempted and took the fewest mid-range attempts in the league last season.
Here’s a look at their shot chart:
Paul, however, is not quite as analytically driven in his shot selection. Last season, 21% of Paul’s shots came from within 10-16 feet while 26% of his shots came from 16 feet to the three-point range, according to Basketball-Reference. Last year, Paul hit 50.9% of his midrange shots, the best mark of any guard who took more than 200 midrange attempts.
However, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe noted on his podcast, “The Lowe Post,” the Rockets could maybe use a dose of Paul’s more traditional shot selection. In the postseason, the Rockets offensive efficiency fell from scoring 111.8 points per 100 possessions, second best in the regular season, to 107.2 points per 100 possessions, only seventh of 16 playoff teams. Against the Spurs, who also sported the NBA’s best defence, the Rockets pace-and-space, threes-or-layups offence slowed down.
Paul’s ability to comfortably take and make midrange shots could actually open up Houston’s offence a bit. Said Lowe (the pod was recorded before the Rockets-Clippers trade):
“The thing that’s interesting about Chris Paul is … you’d be bringing in one of the greatest midrange shooters in the history of the league to a team that literally refuses to take midrange shots. … You hear coaches say, in the playoffs … you can game plan for them because you know they’re just not going to take any shot from between five feet and the three-pointer. They’re just never gonna shoot them.
“Like, you just sit Pau Gasol at the rim and say, ‘Put your hands up, big fella.’ And suddenly their offence — like both the Thunder and the Spurs chipped away at Houston’s identity in the playoffs by just giving them all of that territory on the court … I just think it would be fascinating to see what kind of shots Chris Paul would take in Houston. Because I do think there’s an argument to be made that as prolific as they are offensively, they need to be a little less predictable.”
Some unpredictability would potentially benefit Houston’s offence. In Game 6 of the second round, the Rockets were drubbed by the Spurs as they shot just 28% from the field to score 77 points in an elimination game. The Rockets missed some good attempts, but any defence will welcome a possession like this:
Their shot chart in that game:
While Paul would have to adapt his game to Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets’ offence, his pick-and-roll poking and prodding could be good, too.
The Rockets won’t suddenly open up to the idea of midrange shots, but midrange shots are not inefficient if you make them at a high clip. If Paul can continue making 50% of his midrange shots, those are good shots if it’s what opposing defences will allow.
It remains a complete mystery how this new super-team will function, but it stands to reason that the Rockets just got a lot better in several ways by adding one of the NBA’s best point guards.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.