What if LeBron James joined the Houston Rockets?
In their latest meeting, the Houston Rockets beat the Los Angeles 138-134 in an overtime thriller. James Harden poured in another impressive performance, notching 48 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
Forty-five games into the season, the Houston Rockets have found themselves in the fifth seed. All the while, LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers currently sit outside the playoff picture behind the Los Angeles Clippers, though this is because James has been out nearly a month because of a groin injury.
This past summer, there was some speculation about LeBron heading to Houston, which sparked fantasies of how he, Chris Paul, and James Harden would look together on the court. While James recently said he didn’t really ever consider signing with the Rockets, it’s still fun to think about. James would have solved a lot of Houston’s key issues that appeared after they lost Trevor Ariza, and the hypothetical Big 3’s play would have skyrocketed them to the top of the Western Conference to compete with the mighty Golden State Warriors, who just got DeMarcus Cousins back from injury.
A healthy trio of James, Paul, and Harden would have dominated the Western Conference with elite basketball IQ, shot creation, and ball movement. To have three of the NBA’s best playmakers on the same team would spell trouble for everyone in the Western Conference. History repeats itself when it comes to James and playing with other stars. After the formation of the Miami Heat’s Big 3, James has been to every single NBA Finals, even after leaving the team to play in Cleveland with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
The Rockets’ playing style fits LeBron even better than the fast pace of the Lakers. Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni boasts more experience than Luke Walton, and James would be devastating in an offensive system that spreads the floor and encourages 3-pointers, shots at the rim, and free throws. With Harden and Paul at his side, it would be far too difficult to close down on James as he attacks the basket without leaving a good shooter open. Obtaining James would improve their shooting by drawing help defense, opening up cleaner looks for shooters. Nobody other than Paul or Harden has this elite ability on Houston.
Furthermore, if Carmelo Anthony still joined the fold in this scenario, the Rockets would have assembled 75 percent of the infamous Banana Boat crew. James’ knack for improving his teammates would have hopefully inspired stronger performances from Anthony, a good friend. With James on the roster, Anthony would still be designated to a role off the bench, but he would have had better chemistry with his teammates. Winning cures everything, and if LeBron’s presence had resulted in a faster start, Melo likely accepts his changed role and does not fall out of the team’s rotation as quickly, if at all.
On the defensive end of the floor, James’ presence would also help fill the voids left by Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. His ability to guard multiple positions when engaged would have been instrumental in hiding Harden’s defensive deficiencies. LeBron has declined defensively himself, but he can still be great on that end when he’s locked in and putting forth full effort.
Moving to the Rockets would have given LeBron a ready-made team to win with other proven stars, just like his other stops. The reduced usage from sharing the ball with Harden and Paul would ease his workload a considerable amount, and their Big 3 would be too much for just about any team, potentially even the Warriors.
However, LeBron took his talents to Hollywood instead, and he will not be a free agent again until he is 37 years old. Unfortunately for Rockets fans, it appears that the Los Angeles Lakers may be the last winner of the LeBron James Sweepstakes, leaving them to only wonder what could have been.