Houston Rockets: Should James Harden embrace load management?

With load management becoming the NBA’s latest trend, should Houston Rockets superstar James Harden also follow suit? Here’s why the data suggests Harden could benefit from resting!

Houston Rockets superstar James Harden has been one of the most durable stars in the league, as he’s finished inside of the top six in total minutes played in five of the last seven years.

In four of the last five years, Harden has finished inside the top three in total minutes played, and he even led the league in minutes during the 2014-15 season and the 2015-16 season. Harden has also finished inside of the top six in minutes per game during six of the seven years he’s been with the Houston Rockets, and has never played fewer than 72 regular season games in any season he’s been with the team.

Harden has played in 95 percent of the Houston Rockets’ regular season games over the course of the last seven years, as he’s played in 545 of their 574 regular season games. None of this data includes the postseason, which has tacked on another 73 games, and nearly another 2800 minutes for Harden. If this wasn’t already enough evidence to support Harden resting, here’s a number that will certainly support the notion. Harden has played in 115 of the Rockets’ 123 back-to-back games dating back to the 2012-13 season, which certainly has taken a toll on him physically.

When you take all of this into consideration, it’s understandable why the Rockets would want to load manage Harden. But Harden has been opposed to this, and even said as much while speaking with Michael Shapiro of SI Now.

Should Harden open up to the idea of resting? It goes without saying that he could certainly benefit from it due to the heavy tread his body has been put through, and due to the heavy usage he’s had with the Rockets. To the latter point, Harden has finished with the highest usage rate in the entire league in each of the last two seasons, and has finished inside of the top six in usage rate during each of the last five years.

Part of the issue for the Rockets is the fact that the likelihood of winning without Harden is always going to be significantly lower, as evidenced by the Rockets’ 10-7 record without Harden over the course of the last five years.

But the Rockets have much more depth currently than they’ve had in past years, especially with the additions of Russell Westbrook and rookie sensation Chris Clemons, who should be cemented in the rotation following his debut against the Miami Heat. It’s beyond commendable that Harden wants to be on the court at all times, and it puts him in a rare class among the league’s stars, considering the rampant use of load management around the league.

But Harden’s scoring and shooting efficiency have each been worse during the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, and it’s easy to see how his usage and workload may be the reason behind that. We certainly can’t criticize Harden for wanting to play 100 percent of the time when he’s healthy, but it’s beyond obvious that Harden could benefit from a little rest here and there.

Next: 5 Defensive stoppers the Houston Rockets wish they never let go

At the end of the day, the goal is to have Harden at his best during the postseason, not the regular season.

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