A year after James Harden was competing to take the top individual honor in the NBA of Most Valuable Player he fell off all the pundits radar.
It would be understandable if James Harden had a terrible season, but his output in 2015-16 season was comparable to the prior season. This week Kevin Durant called it a sin Harden was left off the the All-NBA Teams. This article examines whether KD has a point.
2014-2015 Main Stat Line:
Field Goal Percentage: 44.0%
Three Point Shooting Percentage: 37.5%
Free Throw Attempts/Makes: 10.2/8.8
2015-2016 Main Stat Line:
Points: 29.0 (plus 1.6)
Field Goal Percentage: 43.9%
Three Point Shooting Percentage: 35.9%
Free Throw Attempts/Makes:10.2/8.8
Review of the James Harden’s last two seasons shows his numbers were virtually the same except the team were healthier and finished with the 8 seed and 41 wins versus last year with the Rockets were the 2 seeds and had (enter numbers)
As per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle it appears Kevin Durant feels James Harden isn’t getting his due consideration:
“Nobody really appreciates what he does except for the players in our league. “Everybody on the outside doesn’t really appreciate what he brings. Anybody that can put up 29 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and not make the All-NBA team, that’s like a sin to even think about not putting a guy like that on the All-NBA team.” – Durant
While Harden’s buddy and old running mate may have a point there is likely a pretty solid reason for his absence from the All-NBA teams…. defense!
Diving deeper into his advanced stats shows a marked change in the past 2 seasons defensively:
PER: 25.3 (-1.4)
TS%: 59.8% (-0.7)
TOV%: 15.9% (+1.0 the one category you want a lower percent)
OWS: +10.7 (-1.5)
DWS: +2.6 (-1.6)
WS: +13.3 (-3.1)
OBPM: +7.1 (-0.3)
DBPM: -0.4 (-1.4)
BPM: +6.7 (-1.7)
PER = Player Efficiency Rating
TS% = True Shooting Percentage
TOV% = Turnover Volume Percent: an estimate of turnovers committed per 100 plays
OWS = estimate of number of wins contributed to a player based on their offense
DWS = estimate of number of wins contributed to a player based on their defense
WS = total win shares – combination of above 2 totals
OBPM = Offensive Box Plus/Minus – offensive points per 100 possessions average contributed above a league average player.
DBPM = Defensive Box Plus/Minus – defensive points per 100 possessions average contributed above a league average player.
BPM = Box Plus/Minus (combined total of 2 above)
VORP = Value over replacement player – points per 100 TEAM possessions a player contributes above a replacement level (-2.0) player translated to an average team and prorated over 82 games
A quick look at the numbers shows a significant regression in major categories which is likely why the pundits didn’t give Harden his due diligence.
Part of his regression is understandable. Teams game planned to send multiple defenders at Harden who often had the ball in his hands both as the primary ball handler and shot taker. Further, the lack of Rockets players who could create their own shots made the task of defending the Rockets easier.
At end of quarters and during clutch minutes opponents simply upped their attention on Harden with this predictable offense. It’s why many people assume the offense will be improved this year as Morey arguably has addressed these issue with the addition of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon who can both spread the floor, are decent shot makers and can create their own shots.
All NBA Guard Comparison
The six guards who did make the All NBA teams were:
MVP Stephen Curry,and team mate Klay Thompson, his other former Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook, perennial All NBA guard Chris Paul, and two well deserved inclusions for the guards who led their teams to success well beyond what most pundits predicted preseason: Damian Lillard and Kyle Lowry.
Doubtful anyone would question the inclusion of the Splash Brothers given their 73 win season or Westbrook with his 18 triple doubles and Paul carried the Clippers with Griffin out for extended games.
Even the Lillard and Lowry have strong cases for making the team over Harden. Dame Lillard took a team who was decimated in free agency, expected to be lottery bound and simply refused to lose. And ‘skinny Kyle Lowry’ delivered career bests in many categories including defensively plus he was the glue, passion, and leader on and off the court for the Raptors becoming a legitimate MVP candidate in the process.
For many the regression of the Rockets defensively seemed to fall primarily on Harden’s shoulders which was an unfair burden for ‘The Beard’ to carry. No doubt the turmoil within the team and chemistry issues contributed. Constant negative press beginning with McHale’s early firing, Harden and Dwight Howard’s ongoing feud and copious reports of a chaotic locker room atmosphere also likely factored in the pundits dismissal of the Beard.
That said, whether Durant has shone the light back on Harden it’s feasible to imagine he will be inspired to prove the naysayers wrong this coming season. He passed on the Rio Olympics to focus on getting in shape. Harden is the type of player who likes a challenge, so receiving Shaqtin-A-Fool’s 2016 MVP will also give him more than enough inspiration to show one and all (particularly Shaq) that was an insult.
New Rockets Assistant Coach and defensive specialist Jeff Bzdelik will have his hands full given the Rockets personnel. That said, Harden is committed to succeeding, and loves a challenge,so I wouldn’t bet against him.
SCS will update as free agency news develops. For now if you’re a fan who wants to follow free agency closely consider checking out my Free Agency Profiles for all 30 teams:
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