Perfect player? Nope. James Harden still has quite a few flaws in his game and consistency before we can talk about perfection. Still, 14 games into the 2012-2013 NBA Season, the Houston Rockets couldn’t have asked for a better player and trade to fall into their lap than the shooting guard that simply wanted to feel a bit more appreciated.
While it was hard getting the kind of recognition (and money) he wanted it Oklahoma City, where the top of the ladder was a tad crowded with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, there are plenty of place to roam in Houston. No egos to fight, and no one to deny him minutes and shots. He’s the number one player and there isn’t a single person in the coaching staff or on the floor next to him denying that.
Harden isn’t just the best scorer, but he’s the de-facto point guard for this team, even when Jeremy Lin is on the court. He’s a better passer and creator than Lin, who is doing a good job (16 points & 10 assists vs the Raptors, 10.6 points & 6.4 assists this season), maybe even better than many expected for him once he left New York, but this is Harden’s show.
Harden didn’t go wild with the shooting, hitting 9 of his 19 shots, including four from eight three point attempts. He led the team and six players in double figures with 24 points, adding six rebounds and 12 assists. The presence of him and Lin together on the floor create some very fast and fun to watch basketball, which is extremely effective against teams like the Raptors, who have no clue in how to defend and have no backbone and mental toughness when they’re playing away from home.
Harden is averaging 25.1 points and 5.4 assists assists per game, averaging 11 more minutes than his career number. It’s a matter of volume, yes, but why not give him as much as possible (38.8 a night) if you know you’re getting this kind of production from him. Unlike Russell Westrbook in Oklahoma City, Harden isn’t keeping a better scorer from taking shots. It’s him first, and then the rest. Harden is simply a good enough passer and teammate to usually know when to not force shots, unlike a certain “point guard” on his former team.
The Rockets, as we’ve said, are fun to watch. Patrick Patterson and Chandler Parsons enjoy the fast paced basketball, while Omer Asik is doing a massive jobs in the paint when he’s faced with soft opposition. He finished with 13 points and 18 boards, his 7th double double of the season, averaging 10.4 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. Another player who left because of money, and has a team (the Chicago Bulls) probably wondering if they should have matched the offer.
The Rockets are 7-7, despite all the praise. They struggle away from home, aren’t the best of defenders individually and as a unit, while their bench options aren’t exactly satisfactory for a team thinking about the playoffs. This season is about enjoying basketball and taking a step forward. Instead of a borderline postseason team, entering the playoffs for once. This time, they actually have to go-to-guy to count on, and James Harden is unique in that fact that he also makes the others around him better.