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Patrick Beverley can be the ideal fit next to James Harden, if he's healthy

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If Beverley can stay healthy, hit threes, and guard opposing point guards, he is the ideal fit next to the beard.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Since joining the Rockets in the 2012-2013 season, Patrick Beverley has quickly become a fan favorite as a result of his tenacious defense and feisty personality. From being an unknown player challenging Russell Westbrook in the 2013 playoffs to obliterating Jrue Holiday in a preseason game, Beverley's attitude and personality hasn't changed as his fame has grown.

However, what has changed (and progressed) over time has been his play on the court. Beverley's three-point shooting and playmaking abilities have improved, so much so that he has finally grown in to the perfect complement to James Harden in the Rockets backcourt.

When Beverley broke out in 2013, he was essentially a one-way player., He couldn't be relied on to handle the ball and wasn't a consistent threat off the ball. Over the past couple of years, Beverley has continued to work on his playmaking and shooting, and he's now a competent offensive player.

While that has arguably come at the expense of his elite defense, many, including myself, realize the importance of Beverley being an off-ball threat on offense next to James Harden. Before we analyze the expectations of Beverley going in to this season, let's take a look at his previous campaign.

2015-16 season

Beverley remained fairly healthy last season, playing in a career high 71 games, while starting 63 as a result of the failure that was Ty Lawson (but that's a whole other issue). Not only did Beverley stay healthy, as mentioned earlier, he improved his shooting: he was 40 percent from deep last season, good for 21st in the league and better than notable sharpshooters like Kyle Korver.

Beverley's overall field goal percentage increased as well, to a career high 43.4 percent. This, along with his 3.5 assists per game, made Beverley a competent offensive player, and the offense worked much better when he was next to James Harden.

However, some have pointed out that Beverley's defense has regressed, especially last season. Oftentimes last season it seemed that Beverley got burned by other guards, mainly due to Beverley's over-aggression. But, he was still a well above-average defender, one of the best at his position.

Beverley was actually fifth among point guards in defensive RPM last season, per ESPN’s real plus-minus stat. Plus, when Beverley was on the court last year, opponents had an offensive rating of 107.1. However, when Beverley wasn't on the court, that number was 109.4 (which speaks to how atrocious the Rockets defense was as a whole, but again, that's a whole other issue).

No one wants to allow 107 points per 100 possessions, but anyone who watched the team saw Beverley frequently the only player trying very hard. Defense is a team game, and Beverley succumbed to the flaws of his teammates.

So all in all, Beverley didn't only have his healthiest season in 2015-2016, he also had his most productive. So, what can we expect from Beverley this season?

2016-17 season expectations

The outlook on and expectations of Beverley were high coming in to training camp, with Beverley saying he lost weight and was in the best shape of his life. However, several weeks ago Beverley complained of knee soreness, which kept him out of the Rockets' past 5 preseason games. And unfortunately, it doesn't look like things are going to get better anytime soon.

If Beverley is out for the first month or two of the season, it puts a lot of pressure on the other guards in the rotation, mainly Eric Gordon and Pablo Prigioni. And you do not want to be relying on Gordon to stay healthy for 70-plus games or for 39-year-old Pablo Prigioni to play 20-plus minutes a night.

But let's focus on what Beverley will do when he's on the court this season. With Harden being declared the official "point guard," as if position labels mean anything anymore, Beverley will be slotted as the starting shooting guard — assuming Gordon does not permanently usurp him — and will be expected to continue to hit threes and showcase some playmaking skills as the secondary ball-handler in the starting lineup.

More importantly, Beverley will be expected to guard opposing point guards on defense, which is a tall task, especially in the Western Conference. As the advanced numbers suggest, Beverley did a great job doing so last season, even as his offense improved and his role increased. Beverley is the ideal guard next to James Harden as a result of the combination of his ability to guard point guards and be an off-ball threat.

Putting Eric Gordon in the starting lineup in place of Beverley may unlock the true potential of the Rockets' offense, but it creates a huge disadvantage defensively with neither Harden or Gordon up to the task of guarding point guards. Therefore, it is imperative that Beverley remains becomes fairly healthy this season.

Beverley isn't a star. He isn't a flashy player. But his tough attitude, tenacious defense, and improving three-point shooting make him a crucial component to any success the Rockets may have this season. Beverley quickly became one of my favorite Rockets' players, and just as quickly became the true heart and leader of this team. Long live Mr. 94 Feet.