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Houston Rockets early season review: James Harden

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 13: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets plays the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 13, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 13: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets plays the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 13, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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How has the 2017-18 Most Valuable Player fared so far in the early season for the Houston Rockets?

James Harden finally received his ever-coveted MVP award last season after an incredible year for the Houston Rockets. He averaged 30.4 points a night to go along with 8.8 assists and handily won the award.

Now in his second year next to All-Star and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul, how has the Beard looked? The Rockets started off slowly at 1-5, how much did he have an effect on that beginning? Let’s take a look at a couple of his positives and negatives so far.

Positives

He is still James Harden

Thankfully, the Beard is still the Beard. He is putting up some crazy numbers, even though they may seem a little lower than his standards.

Harden is averaging 27.8 points and 7.3 assists per game on the season. During the recent four-game winning streak where the Rockets have looked more and more like themselves, those numbers have looked even better at 30.8 points and 7.8 assists a night. As the season continues, Harden is starting to settle in more.

Defense

Early on in the bad start to the year, everyone’s defense was looking bad, including Harden’s. Since the team starting improving, though, James Harden has seemed much more locked in on that end of the court.

As a player that is historically made fun of for his defense, Harden has quietly been pretty average at it over the last few seasons. I expect that to continue this year with the Rockets having championship aspirations.

Negatives

Shooting

James Harden is currently having a pretty inefficient season. He is shooting 42.5% from the field overall, which is easily his worst since his rookie year. Misses are happening from all over the floor, including at the rim, normally his strong suit. He is shooting just 58.2% on layups, a number that he normally has at least in the 60s.

After starting the season as a sharpshooter from downtown, James Harden has regressed hard from behind the line. The last six games have seen him shoot 29.9% from distance.

Of course, his layups and his 3s will eventually start to fall more often. Currently, though, it’s a little tough to watch at times.

Free throw shooting

This could have gone in the previous negative category, but it deserves a section of its own. Harden’s free throw numbers are down all around. He is averaging his lowest number of attempts from the line in his Houston career (9.0 per game) while shooting at his lowest percentage from the line since his rookie year (81.5%).

Much like his other shooting, his free throws will eventually start to fall. However, is it safe to assume that the officials are giving him fewer calls this season?

Reminder: Last season started out this way as well, with the officials refusing to give him the whistle at times. Eventually, he figured out more ways to get to the line, because he is an extremely smart player. I’m sure something similar will happen soon.

Stat lines

Take a look at his stat lines from this season so far, via Basketball-Reference:

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Overall

James Harden is definitely still having a great season, despite the faults and slower start than in years past. Some of the difficulties he has had this year will work themselves out and he’ll be back to MVP form. There has been a serious improvement in recent games during the winning streak.

Next. Rockets look to stay hot against the Pistons

James Harden is James Harden. He’ll be fine, and then some.

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