Daily Rockets Science: Bold Statements

Amidst all the news about the election, James Harden made headlines by claiming that he’s the best player in the entire NBA.

In light of his staggering averages of 31.6 points and 12.7 assists per game, it might not be all that far fetched. Obviously, there are leaders of great teams like LeBron James and Steph Curry who top many people’s lists, but the Beard deserves consideration as well. The only thing keeping him out of the conversation for some fans is his lack of defense.

However, James Harden‘s team held the well-oiled machine that is the San Antonio Spurs to under 100 points last night, so perhaps there is some newfound dedication to that end of the floor. If the Houston Rockets can make their most recent game the beginning of a new trend, Harden will begin to get the credit he deserves.

Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web

Harden’s self-confident statement came in an article by Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports, and the writer partially backed him. He did mention, however, the fact that his defense keeps him from claiming the crown of best player in the league.

“Best point guard or best player?” Harden responded when asked.

Either one.

“I am,” Harden told The Vertical.

D’Antoni already twice unlocked the MVP in Steve Nash and the early returns on his partnership with Harden have yielded the kind of mind-blowing production to rival an unburdened LeBron James and an unleashed Russell Westbrook this season.

Maxwell Ogden of Hoops Habit backed up Harden’s claim in a recent article. If you look at the stats, Ogden claims, it’s tough to rationalize the Beard not being one of the best in the world. He’s doing things on the basketball court that nobody else has ever done. His turnover average is high and his defense isn’t great some nights, but it almost doesn’t matter.

For perspective, Harden is averaging 42.1 points and 16.9 assists per 100 possessions—a combination of numbers that have never been achieved. The turnover numbers are obscenely high, but so are the averages that he’s accumulated in scoring and facilitating.

One would like to see Harden cut down on his gaffes, but if it costs five turnovers to have one player account for 68.3 points per game, so be it.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, being the best player in the world doesn’t mean a thing if it doesn’t translate to wins. Zach Lowe of ESPN wrote that, with Houston’s defense and the lack of a second star, it’ll be tough for the Rockets to compete for a title. Harden can do everything on offense, but it won’t matter if the team can’t get stops.

Capela is learning on the job, and sometimes lets point guards penetrate too far on the pick-and-roll — triggering more emergency help away from enemy shooters, coaches say. Ariza has lost a step. Brewer is an unreliable gambler. Harden and Gordon just aren’t good enough over full games. Run enough motion and screening action, and the Rockets will screw up.

All three of the articles I’ve featured today harp on Harden’s defense. It’s clear that the Rockets getting stops is of paramount importance for them to win games. Last night’s game wasn’t one where Houston simply outscored its opponent, not worrying about defense. The team only scored 101 points. Surprisingly, it was their defense, especially on the last possession, that secured the win.

It may seem biased coming from a Rockets fan writing for a Rockets site, but James Harden is proving to be the best offensive player in the game. If he keeps this up and Houston keeps winning, his bold statement might not look so bold after all.

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