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.
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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.
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.