1. Will James Harden get back on track?
It seems farfetched to question James Harden’s ability to score, as he’s led the league in scoring in each of the last three seasons and dazzled with 50-point games and even 60-point performances. Harden has simply proven to be one of the best scorers the league has ever seen and has the ability to make life miserable for defenders.
But it’s been a tale of two seasons for Harden in 2020-21, as he dropped 44 points and 17 assists in his first game, dispelling concerns about him being out of shape due to the viral photos of him partying and the even more viral photo of him that appeared to show a hefty Harden (although he was wearing padding underneath his warm-ups). Harden followed that up with 34 points on 16 shots, leading to a true shooting percentage of 85.2 percent, which is simply unheard of.
Harden had 33 points in his third game, although he was just 10-of-24 from the floor. What followed that trio of games was a much different version of The Beard, as he’s gone 10-of-31 in his last two contests (32 percent field goal percentage) and 4-of-16 from deep (25 percent), while averaging 18 points. Harden suffered an ankle injury during the Rockets’ first game against Sacramento, which caused him to sit out the second game against the Kings.
Many believe his dismal performances have been due to the fact that he’s trying to play through the injury, which is certainly within the realm of possibility, as Harden has frequently played through injuries throughout his 12 seasons in the league. As previously mentioned, the Magic have one of the best defenses in the league, so Harden will have his work cut out for him.
But the Rockets will certainly need The Beard to return to the initial version of himself, and especially with Danuel House injured and Christian Wood questionable.