Believe it or not, James Harden’s 2016-2017 campaign was arguably the greatest offensive season in the history of the NBA by multiple metrics.
New NBA fans don’t know just how good they have it. This season has been one of the most entertaining in the history of the league, with a few “unbreakable” records broken. Most notably, Russell Westbrook and James Harden put up astounding numbers, spoiling NBA fans on a nightly basis. Russ has been heralded for his triple-double average, and I certainly don’t want to take away from that. However, it turns out that James Harden has done more for his team on offense than his MVP-candidate counterpart.
Not only has he bested Westbrook on offense this year, but Harden’s 2016-2017 campaign is quite literally the greatest offensive season in NBA history.
That sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? Could James Harden’s 2016-2017 season really be better offensively than Wilt Chamberlain‘s 50 ppg season? What about the offensive greatness of Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant in their primes? Well, statistics say yes, Harden’s year was definitively better offensively than any of theirs. Let’s get into some of those numbers.
First of all, James Harden became the first player in NBA history to total 2,000 points, 900 assists, and 600 rebounds in a single season until now. Nobody else has ever accomplished such a feat. He barely eeked his way into starting that club, finishing with 907 dimes for the year. It’s not as sexy as Russ’s triple-double average, but it’s even more unprecedented.
The Beard also is now the first ever to score and assist on 2,000 points in a season. Players have certainly accomplished those feats separately, but nobody had ever done both in a season. Westbrook had a chance to join Harden as the second player to reach the 2k/2k club, but didn’t rack up enough dimes down the stretch. He scored 2,558 points compared to Harden’s 2,356 but only assisted on 1,924 points to Harden’s 2,198.
Perhaps the most notable accomplishment of the 2016-2017 season was the one that was accomplished last. James Harden directly created, through scoring or assists, 4,554 points this season. That’s the highest total in NBA history. If someone wanted to argue that Harden didn’t just complete the great offensive season ever, they’d have to get around the fact that he put more points on the board than anyone else in history.
Not only did Harden break the record for most points created, but he did so with stunning efficiency. The previous high was set by Tiny Archibald in 1972-1973, who posted a true shooting percentage of about 51%. Of the top five seasons for total points created, the highest TS% hovered around 52%. This year, James Harden finished with a TS% of 61.3%.
To simplify things, the Beard created more points this season than anyone else in history, and did so while shooting the ball more accurately than the next guy in line to the tune of 10 percentage points.
So, Harden broke/created three notable season-long records in 2016-2017. That’s a pretty good case for the best offensive season ever. I’d be selling him short, though, if I failed to mention the fact that he had arguably the best single game in NBA history this year.
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On the last day of 2016, the Houston Rockets took on the New York Knicks. In that game, James Harden totaled 53 points, 17 assists, and 16 rebounds. He also shot 54% from the field and a blistering 56% from beyond the arc.
Players have recorded triple-doubles with more points, assists, or rebounds than the 53-17-16 explosion, but again Harden’s ability to do it all at once comes into play. His December outing is the only 50-15-15 game in NBA history.
To conclude, James Harden’s combination of scoring, passing, and efficiency has always made him a great player. However, he took things to new heights this year, producing more points for the Rockets than anybody else has for their team in history.
He might not win the championship this year, and he might not win MVP (don’t get me started), but the numbers don’t lie–James Harden had the greatest offensive season in the history of the NBA in 2016-2017. Here’s to more greatness in the near and distant future.
James Harden and the Houston Rockets host Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Who knows, it could be the start of the greatest offensive performance ever in the playoffs.