Man of the Hour:
James Harden is nearing a feat that most couldn’t see him reaching before this season began. He’s a triple-double away from breaking Hakeem Olajuwon’s team record. Harden has been on a tear this year averaging 28.7 points (4th among all players), 7.6 rebounds (3rd among guards), and 11.6 assists (1st among all players). But with his high usage rate of 34.1, comes with a lot of turnovers, as he leads the league. He has been putting up career numbers this season but will the Rockets as a team have what it takes to battle through a tough Western Conference?
The D’Antoni Offense:
Mike D’Antoni has a way with high-powered offenses. In his 5 seasons as Head Coach of the Phoenix Suns, his teams averaged 50.6 wins a season, they were never less than 2nd in Team Total Offensive Rating and he won Coach of the Year in 2004-2005 with 62 wins (his highest as a coach). During this span, he also helped manufacturer a 2x MVP in Steve Nash, multiple time All-Stars in Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion with his patented “7 Seconds or Less” offense. The Suns and D’Antoni used the pick n roll almost every possession and put the ball in Nash’s hand to make decisions with a slew of shooters around the arch to ensure spacing. Nash was always hard to defend due to his shifty movements in the lane, quick decision making, and pure shooting ability. With the right 3 point snipers around him in Joe Johnson, Raja Bell & others, Nash averaged 11.5 assists in 04-05 and 10.5 assists in 05-06 leading the league in both seasons in route to back to back MVPs. Meanwhile, the Rockets will look to rejuvenate a stalling franchise using this game plan and adding in Harden’s creativity + scoring ability.
James Harden is playing the Steve Nash role in this scheme as the “point guard”, even though he is a 6’6 shooting guard, he’s always had the skills to play either guard position. He has a great crossover, quick back & forth handling of the basketball (which makes getting into the lane easier), great at drawing fouls on the opponent, plus the best step back in the game. But to his credit, this season Harden is now showing us he has the vision and toughness on the glass to live out the plan D’Antoni has envisioned for the team. D’Antoni said he wants the ball in Harden’s hands and for him to make the plays. With high-level three-point shooters like Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Trevor Ariza, plus good pick n roll big men in Clint Capela & Nene Hilario, Harden has been given the tools to create every possession and will be a force offensively for playoff teams to deal with.
Harden vs Olajuwon:
Putting up monstrous numbers seems like a formality for Harden these days having four triple-doubles and 14 double-doubles in only 17 starts so far this season. At this rate, he will shatter the once-great legend Olajuwon’s team record by a landslide. Hakeem’s Rockets’ record of five triple-doubles was legendary not only by the totals he accumulated but the numbers in the aforementioned games. He averaged 25 pts. 10.4 assists & 15.2 rebounds in those 5 triple doubles; a great achievement in its own right being that most Centers don’t have the ability to get 10+ assists during the course of a game. Harden in his four triple-doubles for Houston he’s averaged 24.5 pts. 13ast & 11.3rebs.
It will be interesting to see if Harden can relive the greatness that Hakeem once had capturing two NBA titles and the regular season success of the Suns had with their now coach Mike D’Antoni.