Welcome to NBA Jam week on NBA.com where all week long we're celebrating the remarkable collection of star duos throughout the NBA and viewing the upcoming season through the prism of what these duos mean entering 2019-20.
Today, our NBA.com Staff played a game of Fact or Fiction for the biggest storylines surrounding the new-look Houston Rockets ahead of the season.
Harden and Westbrook are the best backcourt in NBA history
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Fiction. Best in history? I can't give them that crown after watching Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson win three titles. My answer can change if Harden and Russ can dethrone the Splash Brothers.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Fiction. Curry and Thompson have accomplished more. Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas have accomplished more. Harden and Westbrook's individual accomplishments are right up there with those I've named, but until we see them achieve a championship together then I can't say they're the best in league history. Most talented? Now we have a conversation.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Fact. There's never been a backcourt featuring two MVPs and the ceiling for what's possible with these two is higher than ever. Look, I love Steph and Klay, they've won big, they're the two best shooters ever and they fit seamlessly next to each other. But with apologies to Klay Thompson ... he's not on that MVP level.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Fiction. I'm going with Curry and Thompson as well, not just because of everything they've accomplished, but also because of how well they complement each other on both ends of the court. We still need to see how this version of Harden and Westbrook fit together.
The Rockets should be favoured to win the West
McGregor: Fiction. I promise I'm not out on the Rockets, I just think the Western Conference favourite will come out of Los Angeles … or the Mile High City.
Gay: Fiction. I expect the Rockets to be right at the top of the Western Conference standings - they might even be the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs. However, with the playoffs failures of both Westbrook and Harden still fresh in memory, the two former MVPs are going to have to show me they can elevate their games in the postseason to the same level as they do in the regular season.
Adams: Fiction. My money is on the Clippers, who in addition to their own MVP-level duo have complementary pieces that better fill in the gaps. When push comes to shove, both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are game changers on both ends. The same cannot be said for Harden and Westbrook, who have each also had their fair share of playoff disappointment.
Rafferty: Fiction. I wouldn't be shocked at all if the Rockets end up with the best record in the Western Conference, but I think the Clippers and Lakers will be the teams to beat come playoff time - provided they can stay healthy.
Russell Westbrook will average a triple-double
McGregor: Fact. At this point, it feels like Russ can get a triple-double in his sleep. This is a guy that set his mind out to get a 20-20-20 game and did it. Even in a new situation, I think another triple-double average is in the cards.
Gay: Fact. It's sad that no one cares about this as much as I do.
Adams: If Chris Paul can average eight dimes playing next to Harden then Westbrook can hit double digits. I actually think the rebounds might be harder to come by than the assists but given the need to make this work in Houston, I think everyone will be happy to let Westbrook get his.
Rafferty: Fiction. Harden is a great rebounder, as is Clint Capela, so I'm not sure he quite gets there. The assists will be harder to come by as well with him having to share the ball with Harden, who is the best 1-on-1 player in the league.
James Harden is no longer a top-3 MVP candidate
McGregor: Fiction. I think Harden is right there after Giannis and LeBron. Having Westbrook as his running mate changes the dynamic but Harden is still going to continue to put up big numbers and stuff stat sheets. It might come even easier.
Gay: Fiction. I still think there's a strong case for Harden to not only be top-3 in MVP voting but a strong chance for him to win it. He'll likely play every game he can play in - I don't see him load managing. And Houston's record should be good enough to keep him in the conversation.
Adams: Fiction. There's no doubt that it will be harder to win it with Westbrook in town. But while numbers won't be as eye-opening, he's still a better bet than anyone to lead the league in scoring and Houston will win enough games that he'll certainly be in the conversation once again throughout the year. He may not be a favourite, but it's certainly not impossible.
Rafferty: Fiction. The Rockets should be one of the best teams in the league and Harden will almost certainly be their best player. His days of being an MVP candidate are far from over.
The Rockets need home court to reach the NBA Finals
McGregor: Fiction. I don't think the home court advantage of the Toyota Center is as important as matchups are. Like the 1994-95 Rockets, this team could hypothetically make a run as a sixth seed if the matchups were advantageous.
Gay: Fiction. I don't think they need home court advantage, but it would certainly help.
Adams: Fact. The margin for error in the Western Conference is miniscule. Given that the Rockets haven't been able to close out multiple series at home when favored and add in the fact that Westbrook hasn't made it out of the first round in each of the last three seasons, why would they get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to winning in the playoffs in hostile environments?
Rafferty: Fiction. Same as Carlan - it would certainly help, but I'm not sure it ends up being the difference given how deep the Western Conference now is. It's all about getting the right matchups.
Defence will be Houston's ultimate downfall
McGregor: Fiction. The duo is so good offensively, I think it will cover any defensive deficiencies that their teammates are unable to cover up for.
Gay: Fact. Westbrook and Harden aren't turnstiles defensively, but they aren't lockdown either. If Houston wants to win at a high level then the efforts of their leaders defensively will have to be at an all-time high. We haven't seen that from either of them individually. For Houston's sake, let's hope that changes.
Adams: Fiction. I'm actually not too worried about Houston's problems on that end. Even if they are merely average, it won't be the determining factor on whether Daryl Morey's latest chemistry experiment works. I'm far more dubious of shot selection, distribution of touches and overall predictability on the offensive end. That's what Houston's season will ultimately come down to.
Rafferty: Fiction. With the amount teams switch nowadays, I'm not sure Harden and Westbrook's limitations defensively are quite as pronounced as they used to be. Plus, as Micah noted, there are a number of other factors at play that will determine how far they ultimately go.
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