Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has said James Harden will be his team’s full-time point guard this season, but former Rockets boss Kevin McHale is still questioning the bearded superstar’s floor general credentials.
"James is a scorer, and at the end of the day, you do fall back on what you are. James is a scorer at heart," he said, according to ESPN.com’s Calvin Watkins. "Can you change that? … Can you be something that you’re really not for an entire 82-game season? He’s a great facilitator, great passer and he has great vision—he really is a scorer as a basketball player."
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Although Harden hasn’t embodied a traditional pass-first point guard over the course of his career, those kinds of players are a dying breed in today’s NBA.
Rather, primary playmakers who can score and distribute at elite rates such as Harden have emerged as some of the most coveted and unique players the league has to offer.
To wit: Harden was the only player to average at least 29 points and seven assists last season. Extrapolated further, Harden and reigning MVP Stephen Curry were the only players to total at least 2,000 points and 500 dimes.
And while Harden may not resemble a prototypical point guard at 6’5” and 220 pounds, he ranked sixth among all players last season in average points generated via assists (18.0).
Assist Points Created (2015-16 Season)
Player Assist Points Created Assist to Pass % Avg. Passes Made Rajon Rondo 27.1 15.8 74.2 John Wall 24.7 14.5 70.9 Russell Westbrook 23.7 17.8 58.6 Chris Paul 23.7 16.1 61.9 Ricky Rubio 19.0 14.0 61.9 James Harden 18.0 14.3 52.3
Considering the Rockets touted the NBA’s seventh-most efficient offense (108.3 points per 100 possessions) last season with Harden touching the ball a team-high 85.1 times per game, they should be in good shape now that D’Antoni is at the helm and shooters like Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson are in tow.
And with the team poised to embrace a run-and-gun approach that will enable Harden to pile up numbers that reflect his abilities as a shot-maker and shot creator, he should be in line for a stellar year as the Rockets seek to rebound following an underwhelming 41-41 campaign.