Is James Harden Ready for The Responsibility of a Point Guard?

For the past four seasons shooting guard James Harden has been the Houston Rockets primary ball handler. Entering his fifth season ‘The Beard’ now has the point guard title to back it up.

According to Calvin Watkins of ESPN. Mike D’Antoni said that James Harden would become the Houston Rockets‘ full-time point guard this season.

“He’s more or less responsible giving rhythm to the team, that’s what a point guard does,” D’Antoni said. “Hardn is going to be on the ball and he’s going to be distributing the ball and it will take some adjusting. He’s got a lot more responsibilities as a point guard. A playcaller, a good basketball mind, he’s already telling guys we can do this we can do that.”

James Harden becoming a full-time point guard is not surprising. In fact, watching him orchestrate NBA: Houston Rockets-Media Daythe Rockets’ offense is nothing new. Rather, the question is: as a high volume scorer is Harden ready to take on the responsibility of starting point guard? 

In fairness I have to admit, Harden has the qualities to become a great point guard. He is a good facilitator who can create scoring opportunities for his teammates. In addition Harden can break down  opponents defense due to the attention he commands on offense.

Since 2013, no other shooting guard averaged more assists than Harden’s 6.6 per game. However, giving him the responsibilities of a point guard for a full 82 games may not be a good idea.

As a team player, Harden’s style of play has become more harmful than helpful to the Rockets in recent years. His one-on-one style of play has become the biggest problem on the offensive end. So much so, Harden’s legacy may become similar to that of Carmelo Anthony. A phenomenal player and scorer that has yet to make his team better.

I wonder if Harden’s style of play had a negative impact on Houston’s free agency recruitment. Despite the fact Harden is a sensational player no all-star had the desire to play alongside the ball-dominant guard.

With respect to his play-making abilities, Harden does not understand how to give up the ball without freezing out his teammates. During his isolation plays, Harden has the tendency to dribble the shot clock down to the final 10 seconds. If he cannot get his shot off within the last few seconds, he looks to pass.

There is a difference in receiving a pass that is quick, versus getting a pass after a guy has just dribbled for 17 seconds. For the Rockets, watching Harden go one-on-five for 15 seconds will take a lot of energy out of the team. As well as making his teammates feel vulnerable on offense.

His isolation plays are the main reason why the Ty Lawson experience was a failure. With Harden now sharing the backcourt with a similar player to himself in Eric Gordon, expect to see the same issues arise once more.

Beyond freezing out his teammates, Harden has made it impossible for a big man to have an impact on offense. With Harden running the show, the Rockets disrespected and misused Dwight Howard for three years.

Howard was never as gifted on offense like Hakeem Olajuwon, nor the dominating player he once was in Orlando. However, it did not help that Harden’s style of play never allowed Howard to make an impact.

The Rockets should have incorporated the pick-and-roll for Howard to be a dominate player. Playing alongside Harden, there was no reason for Howard to end his tenure in Houston averaging 16 points per games.

If Harden was not so reluctant to share the ball with Lawson and Howard, Houston may have become a dynasty. If James Harden wants to thrive as a point guard, he must learn how to keep his teammates involved.

Another issue Harden may have is his ability to take care of the ball. As mentioned above, no shooting guard in the league has averaged more assists than Harden. However, none has turned the ball over as much either.

In fact, no player in the league has turned the ball over more than James Harden in the past four years, averaging 4.0 a game. Next to his lack of effort on the defensive end, his ability to take care of the ball is his second biggest weakness.

James Harden is a phenomenal talent, and even I have become a fan since his arrival five years ago. Sure, watching Harden at point would be better than Patrick Beverley struggling to run the offense.

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However, with The Beard as the floor general. It is just another painful reminder of the lack of depth at the point guard position in Houston.

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