How Will the Absence of Russell Westbrook Affect the Rockets?

The Rockets may have some depth, but Russell Westbrook means a lot to this team and a lot of the team's buckets come from a Westbrook pass. It's likely that James Harden will continue to bring the ball up and Austin Rivers will play the 2 guard. Obviously, Austin Rivers has shown everyone that he can actually play basketball and he's pretty much ended the rumor of him being in the league only because his dad is a coach. Expect more of this from Rivers as he will continue to score with more minutes. Without a prolific secondary scorer, James Harden will continue to go off nightly and I believe that Harden will average more assists as he will force double teams so that he'll be able to kick it out to another player for a bucket. It is slightly concerning that the only good ball handlers on the floor are James Harden and Austin Rivers. They will need someone else to handle the ball as well, and whether that's Chris Clemons, Ben McLemore, or Danuel House Jr., the Rockets will need another ball handler on the court.

The Rockets will need guys like House Jr., McLemore, and even Chris Clemons to step up, play more minutes, and score the basketball when Harden is on the bench.

Now to talk about how the Rockets will fend against the Thunder. They're playing the Rockets, and one of the players they need to shut down is Chris Paul. Due to the small ball lineup, Chris Paul will not be able to thrive off of pick and rolls like he usually does; the other team switching so that a taller player is now defending Paul. When this happens, he's normally able to put a good move on the taller defender and nail the mid-range jumper, but with this Rockets small ball lineup, he won't be able to do that.

If the Thunder want to win this game, Chris Paul will have to have great chemistry with Steven Adams and they must be synchronized to get good looks into the paint and Adams must deliver. If you're the Rockets, you need to box out Adams, shut down Chris Paul and put a high level defender on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as well. Eric Gordon (if he starts), will have to up his defensive game on Shai as Robert Covington will have to lock down Danilo Gallinari. It should be an interesting series, but everything is up for grabs, we'll just have to wait and see what happens...

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