Where did this James Harden come from? We all knew he was good back when he was a super-sub for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but nobody saw this Harden coming.
Before we can talk about this year’s James Harden, we have to rewind the clock just three seasons ago when we was carrying his Rockets all the way to the Western Conference Finals. That season, James put the world on notice that he was a flat-out superstar in the NBA. His ability to not only shoot the ball from deep, but draw fouls driving to the rim was the focal point of Houston’s success. Harden finished second in the MVP race behind Stephen Curry, sending a message that Houston would be fighting for the top spot in the west.
Then last season happened, anything that could go wrong for the Rockets did. From the firing of head coach Kevin McHale just 11 games into the season to in-house feuds with Harden and Dwight Howard, Houston couldn’t get out of it’s own way. However, within all of the turmoil of last season, Harden remained a constant. Houston needed his scoring every night and he delivered. Even though his defense plummeted to laughable levels, Harden still finished second in scoring at 29 points per game and led Houston all the way to the playoffs with a 41-41 record.
After last season, nobody thought that Houston would be anywhere close to good this season. With losing Dwight Howard, the Rockets had more questions than answers going into this season.
Enter Mike D’Antoni.
Seeming like a match-made in heaven, Harden and D’Antoni have fit together like peanut butter and jelly. Both bring the best out of each other and that has done wonders for Houston this season.
Harden has not only been a force to reckon with scoring wise, but his new found passing ability has put him in a category of his own. Currently, Harden is third in the league in scoring at 28.6 PPG and first in assists with 11.8 a game. Think of this, Harden has a chance to be the second player in NBA history to finish the season as both the scoring champ along with the assist leader. Harden is also second in the league in triple-doubles with 11.
Why and how did James Harden get this good? Where did this passing ability come from? Yes, Houston did add Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon over the off-season and D’Antoni made Harden the official point guard of the Rockets, but Harden has never passed like this. Not in college, not in OKC, and certainly not in Houston before now.
We could point to D’Antoni for all of this, but even when D’Antoni had the great Steve Nash in Phoenix, Nash never equaled the assist rate that Harden has done this season.
The enigma of James Harden has not only entered into another realm of stardom in the NBA, he has capitulated his name into real MVP talks.