James Harden, Josh Smith

The debut of Josh Smith with the Houston Rockets went very well, helping James Harden and Dwight Howard pull off a big 117-111 overtime win on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies, signaling to the West that there might be a new ‘best’ team in the land.

Harden scored 32 points and missed out on a triple double because of two rebounds, enjoying having yet another very capable and motivated for the first time in a while option to find on the open court, with Smith more than happy to help with dunking finishes. Trevor Ariza found his shooting touch with 15 points and 10 rebounds including a huge 3-pointer in overtime to break away from the struggling Grizzlies. Marc Gasol scored 29 points but missed a potential game winner with 0.6 seconds left, sending the game into overtime after Harden tied the game seconds earlier.

Being on a new team didn’t stop Josh Smith from taking bad, long range shots, hitting 9-of-21, but playing next to friends and more talented players than he had with him in Detroit clearly made a change him, eager to make an impression. His hop was there like during his Atlanta days, he showed some impressive passing skills and court vision and most importantly, added another very difficult-to-stop option for James Harden to take advantage of, finishing with 21 points.

A combination of Howard, Ariza, Harden, Beverley and Smith on the court at the same time creates an incredibly athletic and long lineup, which has more than one way to open up a defense and as long as Harden doesn’t fall asleep defensively, has the potential to be the best in the league in that account as well. It’ll be interesting to see if Smith, who just might play 83 games this season if he plays all of them for the Rockets, remains a sixth man off the bench or finds himself in the lineup soon enough.

The Rockets making the additions of Smith and Brewer have been real game changers, with Brewer scoring 13 points on 5-of-10 from the field. However, Smith, enjoying a plus-minus of +15, a rarity for him this season, brings an almost All-Star caliber player who has been dormant for over a season to the Rockets. The plan was always to have a third All-Star next to Howard and Harden, with Smith’s name often coming up. It took some time and a crooked road to get him, but now that he’s here Daryl Morey once again looks like something of a genius, even if luck had a lot to do with it.

The strength of Kevin McHale:

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