James Harden Thriving At Point Guard For Houston Rockets
James Harden has quickly adapted to his role as the full-time point guard for the Houston Rockets, leading all players in the preseason with an average of 12 assists per game.
James Harden already accounted for a majority of the Houston Rockets offense and his appointment as the team’s point guard initially appeared to be more of a title than an alteration to his impact on the team.
A 26-point, 15 rebound, eight assist outing in his third game since being named the point guard indicates the position switch could pave the way to a feat only accomplished once in NBA history.
In 1972-73 Nate Archibald became the only player ever to simultaneously lead the league in points and assists, as he averaged 34 points and 11.4 assists a night.
No player in the league is in a better position to join Archibald than Harden, as the high-scoring Rockets want the ball in his hands even more than the 6.3 minutes per game he had it last year.
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In 96 minutes during the preseason, Harden has dished out 36 assists, along with a total of 70 points scored.
Harden is masterful at creating open looks on the perimeter for his teammates, as 3.0 of his 7.5 assists a night last season were off 3-point field goals.
Seven of his assists against New Orleans came off 3-point shots, as the placement of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, the new additions to the team, gave Harden multiple options to kick the ball out on the perimeter.
Harden had already worked seamlessly with Trevor Ariza, with 1.1 of his assists a night creating a 3-point conversion for Ariza.
The Rockets scored 1,476 points off Harden’s assists, the sixth-most in the NBA, while he led the NBA in total points scored with 2,376.
The total of 3,852 points created by Harden’s scoring and assists were more than any other player in the league last year and accounted for over 44 percent of the Rockets’ total offense.
On any given night, Harden appeared to be on the brink of a great performance.
During the 2015-16 season, Harden was the only player in the league to submit a 50 point scoring effort, dish out 15 assists on another night and record more than seven steals in a single game.
First year coach Mike D’Antoni wants Houston to push its pace further, after ranking seventh in pace a season ago.
The uptempo style of offense suits Harden particularly well, as he is the ideal player to either attack the basket or stop in transition and launch a 3-pointer.
Houston has responded early in the preseason, scoring 20 percent of their total points off turnovers and 14.1 percent of those points have been in transition.
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Additional shot opportunities could propel Harden’s scoring even further.
Even though he has led the league in total points scored each of the past two seasons, he has yet to capture his first career scoring crown.
Stephen Curry scored 30.1 points per game, 1.1 more than Harden’s career-high a season ago.
The pairing of Curry and free agent Kevin Durant could negate two of Harden’s strongest competitors for the scoring title.
Harden became just the seventh player since the turn of the century to average 29 points per game while attempting fewer than 1,650 shots.
The 6-foot-6 guard doesn’t need a high frequency of field goal attempts. Harden shared the league lead in free throw attempts with Kings center DeMarcus Cousins at 10.2 per game.
Only Harden rarely fails to capitalize at the foul line. His conversion rate of 86 percent ranked as the 19th best in the NBA a year ago.
Shooting from distance has become a specialty, as Harden connected 236 times from beyond the arc, third most in the NBA.
The combination of his scoring acumen plus his ability to set up his teammates for easy scoring opportunities has the Rockets offense clicking.
Indiana forward Paul George drew national attention after stating he believes the Pacers can average over 115 points per game, essentially 13 more than the team posted last season.
Houston could threaten to become the first team since the 1984-85 Denver Nuggets to average over 120 points per game for an entire season.
The Rockets have poured in an average of 128 points a night through three preseason games, with Harden serving as the primary catalyst.
Archibald may have some company in the record books once the 2016-17 season concludes.