It’s no secret that Houston Rockets point guard James Harden is one of the better scorers in the NBA. In Harden’s four-plus seasons with the Rockets, he has averaged 27 points per game, but what about his ability as a passer? Last year Harden averaged 7.5 assists per game which was sixth in the NBA, however this season he is as deadly as a passer as he is as a scorer.
When Mike D’Antoni was hired over the summer to be the Rockets new head coach, he turned some heads when he talked about moving Harden from shooting guard to point guard. However D’Antoni has been right on with his decision this season.
Through 15 games this season Harden is averaging 12.5 assists per contest which is by far tops in the NBA. And Harden has done this while he has also managed to average 28.7 points per game. So far this season the Rockets are 9-6 as they are seeking to get to the postseason after missing out on it last spring, and you have to wonder how far that this brand of basketball can take them?
The Rockets aren’t D’Antoni’s first time around in the NBA as he’s also been the head coach of the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers. D’Antoni has always been known for the wide open, fun and gun brand of basketball which produces a litany of points. D’Antoni’s best run in the NBA came as the head coach of the Suns as he led them to a pair of appearances in the Western Conference Finals and his time in Phoenix was predicated by point guard Steve Nash who was a two-time NBA MVP under D’Antoni. D’Antoni has had other star players under his guidance which included small forward Carmelo Anthony, and shooting guard Kobe Bryant with the Lakers. But with Anthony, D’Antoni had a player that wasn’t on the same page with him system, and the same could be said in regards to Bryant who was also in the twilight of his career. However things are different with Harden.
At 27-years of age, Harden is in the prime of his career, and it hasn’t taken him and D’Antoni that long to click. Last year saw the Rockets concentrate more on isolation ball with Harden being the focal point, and at times Houston was playing one-on-five on offense. But under D’Antoni, ball movement has been the theme for the Rockets and everyone has been benefiting from it. The Rockets consistently find the open man of offense, while allowing Harden to maintain his status as one of the better scorers in the NBA.
In the Rockets season opening loss to the Lakers, Harden went for 34 points, 17 assists, and 7 rebounds. And in 9 of the Rockets 12 games, Harden has recorded at least 12 assists, while he had a 24-point, 15-assist, 12-rebound performance on November 9 in a victory over the San Antonio Spurs, and a 26-point, 14-assist, 12-rebound performance in last Thursday night’s 126-109 victory over the Portland Trailblazers which was his third triple-double of the season.
In the early stages of this NBA season there have been several players that have stuck out because of their extraordinary performances, and Harden finds himself right in the middle of the group. And if Harden can keep up the pace that he is currently on, the NBA’s MVP Award that has eluded for the past couple of years could finally be his as it is indeed a rarity to be a quality passer and scorer.