James Harden finished 2nd in MVP voting in 2014. He took the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals and lost to the eventual champions the Golden State Warriors. The 2015-16 was supposed to be his year but he came into camp out of shape. He put up great numbers, 29 points per game on 43% shooting from the field, 35% from 3-point range and 86% from the free throw line. However, the Rockets were only 41-41 and lost in the first round to the Warriors.
Harden is doing it again this season, 29 on 43% shooting, 34% from 3-point range and 85% from the field. His rebounds are up to 8.1 per game and he’s averaging a league best and career high 11.3 assists per game. He’s also at a career best 27 PER. Westbrook leads in triple-doubles but Harden leads the league in double-doubles with 63. He’s also put up 21 triple-doubles of his own which of course is a career high.
Harden was always a good playmaker but the knock on him was he held the ball too long and always looked for the contact. When Mike D’Antoni took over the Rockets he put Harden at the point guard. The Rockets added more shooters and the “D’Antoni effect” took over. Harden now pushes the ball up the court quickly for 3-pointers. The Rockets have set the NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a season. Houston has four guys in the top 15 of made 3-pointers and a fifth guy sitting at 21.
Just like Westbrook, at times Harden is seeking a triple-double. I was at a game in Brooklyn, the Rockets were up 18 and Harden came back in during the 4th quarter to pick up two assists for the triple-double. He still falls asleep on defense at times but he also gives a better effort against the better players.
More importantly for Harden and the Rockets they are up to 54 wins which is good enough for 3rd in the West. Harden leads the league in assist points created by a large margin. If you look at his teammates they are not that great either. He gets Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza all those open 3-pointers. He’s only missed one game this season and he has the Rockets in a great position to have a long playoff run. Some people say the MVP should have a chance to win the NBA title as well.
It has been a career year for Harden. He’s playing less minutes, switched positions, and became a better leader. He may not have all the triple-doubles but he did improve his team wins.
If you look at the deeper numbers, Harden is one of three players to average at least 25, 8 and 8 while having a true shooting percentage over 60%. Michael Jordan and LeBron James are the other 2 guys on the list.