How Christian Wood has impacted James Harden’s game:
Thanks to Christian Wood’s elite finishing ability around the basket, James Harden is passing the ball much more often than he did in previous seasons. Harden still leads the team in scoring but is now the NBA’s co-leader in assists with 11.3 per game, which ironically enough is tied with Russell Westbrook.
Christian Wood is a big reason why Harden is more willing to pass the ball than in previous seasons. Wood must have taken a visit to the Johnson Space Center before this season because he was not like this in Detroit.
We did not see this as often because Wood was miscast in Detroit as a stretch five playing alongside Blake Griffin. As an aside, I am shocked that Detroit did not make the Eastern Conference playoffs when they had Griffin, Wood, and Derrick Rose in the same lineup.
Anyway, James Harden (and John Wall to a certain extent) dramatically elevated Wood’s game just by passing the ball to him in the right spot. Harden’s offensive gravitas has rocketed Wood into stardom, as he is averaging nearly 24 points and 11 rebounds so far this season.
In short, the Los Angeles Lakers have no good options while defending the Harden-Wood pick and roll.
Option #1: Staying home on Christian Wood; defending James Harden on an island
James Harden is one of the greatest one-on-one players in NBA history, so staying home on Wood and the other three players is not a good option.
Option #2: Sending Wood’s defender to help on Harden’s man
When Marc Gasol or Montrezl Harrell leave Wood to cut off Harden’s drive, he automatically lobs it up to him if the weak side help defenders do not slide over to the paint in time. If they defend the lob, Harden simply kicks it out to a capable three-point shooter in the opposite corner.
How does the Harden-Wood connection impacts Houston’s other players:
First and foremost, P.J. Tucker is much more comfortable as the starting power forward than he was as a 6’5” center. Danuel House may have notoriety for being kicked out of the bubble but he has filled in admirably in the starting lineup. House will have an impact if he is able to return from a back injury that sidelined him against the Orlando Magic.
Coming off the bench, Eric Gordon can still provide instant offense and rock-solid defense; Cousins is still a bruising center with legit three-point range.
Houston is no joke. They do have a losing record, however. Obviously, it is easier said than done to stop Harden and his supporting cast but the Los Angeles Lakers were able to do this before.
Why not this time?