Are Rockets’ James Harden’s peak years coming to an end?

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

With Houston Rockets superstar James Harden having recently turned 31-years-old, is his peak-level of play coming to an end?

James Harden has been one of the most durable players in the NBA since joining the Houston Rockets, as he’s missed just 33 games in the last eight seasons. Harden has also twice led the league in total minutes played and finished within the top six in minutes per game in seven of the last eight seasons.

Harden has also played a league-leading 5,320 minutes over the last two seasons, which is further proof of his durability and reliability for the Houston Rockets. Harden has been unguardable and his presence has essentially guaranteed at least 50 wins for the Rockets, as he’s easily one of the greatest scorers in league history, and has tightened up on the defensive end of late as well.

Harden has led the league in win shares in each of the last four seasons and five of the last six seasons, which is defined as the number of wins contributed by a specific player, and is a testament to Harden’s greatness. But with Harden entering his 12th season and having just turned 31-years-old in August, how much longer will he be able to play at his peak level?

Are Rockets’ James Harden’s peak years coming to a close?

With superstar players such as LeBron James and Chris Paul still performing at their peak in their mid 30’s there’s no reason to think Harden won’t be able to do the same. This is especially the case with Harden’s game not being based on athleticism, as he’s never been mistaken for being a high-flyer or being the fastest player on the court.

The main concern regarding Harden is the heavy load he’s taken on, as he’s finished near the top of the league in usage rate for each of the last five seasons, as outlined below:

  • 3rd in 2015-16 (32.5 percent)
  • 4th in 2016-17 (34.2 percent)
  • 1st in 2017-18 (36.1 percent)
  • 1st in 2018-19 (40.5 percent)
  • 3rd in 2019-20 (36.3 percent)

The 2019-20 season was the first season of Harden’s Rockets career in which he’s also had a teammate finish in the top 10 in the same category, as Russell Westbrook finished sixth in usage with 34.4 percent. Prior to that, Harden has never had a Rockets teammate even finish inside the top 40, as Chris Paul finished 48th during the 2017-18 season, which was his best Rockets’ season, and Dwight Howard was 50th in 2013-14, which was his best finish with the Rockets.

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It goes without saying that Harden having teammates around him who can also take on a heavy load will extend his career, but again, Harden’s game isn’t predicated on elite athleticism, which bodes well for his chances of continuing to operate at a high level for the coming years.