James “Expletive” Harden: A Stats Deep Dive on Rockets One Man Show

James “Expletive” Harden, as I’m sure most of his opponents are calling him, has been a one-man wrecking ball in the NBA this season, especially in his last 30 games. We’re going to take a closer look at Harden’s historic run to show just how absurd he has been. Keep in mind that Harden was without Chris Paul for more than a month, likely prompting this explosion. It won’t get easier, however, as star center Clint Capela, underwent thumb surgery last week and is anticipated to miss 4-to-6 weeks.

Basic Stats

For the season Harden is averaging: 36.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 8.1 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. Throughout the league, he is first in points, fifth in assists, and sixth in steals on the season. Only two players (Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook) are averaging the same or more in rebounds and assists. Only Westbrook matches Harden’s rebounds, assists, and steals. Harden averages 15 more points a game than Westbrook. Suffice to say, Harden is pretty good at this basketball thing.

Harden’s Historic Month

Harden has been all over media for his historic January in the NBA. He has scored 30 or more points in 24 straight games, putting him 4th on the overall list. Wilt Chamberlain, of course, owns the top three spots, although Harden is two games away from taking that third spot. Speaking of Wilt, no one has averaged as many points as Harden in a month since Wilt the Stilt did. He’s also the first player since Michael Jordan (another one of those good basketball players) to score 600 points or more in a month. He hasn’t broken his streak yet, so we’ll see how February treats him.

Harden Stats Deep Dive (Hold Your Nose)

If it holds to the end of the season, Harden’s 40.6% usage rate would be second highest all time next to 2016-17 Super Saiyan Russell Westbrook. However, Harden’s .618 true shooting percentage is much higher than Russell’s .554 that year and would be the most efficient of any player who has ever had a usage rate of 35%. He is currently first in the NBA in Box Plus/Minus, Offensive Plus/Minus, Offensive Win Shares, and VORP. He is currently “only” second in PER and win shares. Conclusion: James Harden is still pretty good at this basketball thing.

Turnovers

James Harden currently ranks first in turnovers per game at 5.6. He also has 50 more turnovers on the season than second place Trae Young (who, as his last name suggests, is only 20 years old). This continues to be one of the biggest knocks on Harden’s game. However, if you take a closer look, those numbers are deceiving. Looking at Turnover Percentage, which measures the number of turnovers per 100 possessions, Harden doesn’t even crack the top 20. His turnover numbers are being inflated by his absurd usage rate and is actually taking care of the ball fairly well.

Shooting

Offense is where James Harden has excelled in past seasons and his eruption this season has been primarily due to offensive excellence. He is making 36.7% of his 3 pointers on a whopping 13.3 attempts per game. Those numbers have translated to the most attempted 3s per game and the most 3s made per game for Harden. It isn’t as if these are catch and shoot 3s or wide open shots coming off passes from his teammates. At one point in January, the Beard made 87 consecutive FGs without an assist (twice more than second all time). He’s shooting off the dribble and creating his own shot nearly the entire time. He’s also attempted and made the most free throws out of anyone this season, adding to his point totals the easy way.

Defense

Defense? James Harden?? A year or two ago those terms were basically antonyms of each other. Avid NBA fans have seen the 11 minute YouTube video of him playing matador defense (speaking of, when’s the Jabari Parker edition coming out?) and since then Harden has made a conscious effort to work on the defensive end. It is paying off this year. He is second in total steals on the year and first in deflections per game. Is Harden a legit two-way star? Of course not, but he’s a bonafide offensive superstar and is doing more than enough on the defensive end to help his team. If you need any more proof, watch him put the clamps on Kawhi Leonard at the end of the game a week ago.

MVP Candidacy

James Harden 2019 stats are out of this world as you can see. James Harden, of course, won the MVP award last season but was expected to win it for most of the season. This year, it appears he has some very valid competitors. Kawhi Leonard is averaging 28 points with eight rebounds a game for the Toronto Raptors. Paul George has gotten a lot of love lately for both Defensive Player of the Year and MVP. There’s also Giannis Antetokounmpo (read my bio, you know I’m mentioning the Greek Freak) doing everything for the Milwaukee Bucks who lead the Eastern Conference right now. It appears that Harden is the front runner for now, but there is a lot of season left.

Houston

The Rockets are currently 5th in the West and 29-21. This would seem like a disappointment considering Harden’s performance and having the first seed just one year ago, but there have been several factors out of their control. First, the Rockets started the season 1-5 and took a while before they began winning games. To be nine games over .500 right now is indicative of their more recent play. Secondly, injuries have killed the team. Chris Paul, Harden’s star backcourt mate, missed over a month with a hamstring injury. Clint Capela, the team’s electric starting center, will be out four to six months after thumb surgery. Nene Hilario, Brandon Knight, and James Ennis have all missed time with various injuries. Chris Paul returned to the lineup last week though and figures to ramp up his minutes in the next couple of games. The Rockets have picked up Kenneth Faried to fill in for Capela and he has averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds per game since joining the team. It appears the Rockets will be just fine in the next months, led by their transcendent shooting guard.

  
Agu is a Junior at Marquette University pursuing a Business Management Major with a Spanish Business Minor. He is a Milwaukee native and somehow survived 10 years of mediocrity from his hometown team, the Milwaukee Bucks, and is now writing about them in the midst of their best season. He is new on the scene with no credentials but hopes to have a light Wikipedia page in the future.