James Harden’s absurd season represented in five stats

Houston’s James Harden is going to average 40 points this season. Read that sentence again. 40 POINTS. EVERY GAME. FOR AN ENTIRE SEASON. Absolutely absurd.

Here we thought that last season, when Harden averaged 36.1 points (the most since Michael Jordan’s 37.1 in 1986-87), was a historical anomaly made possible by injuries and the Rockets’ extreme reliance on advanced analytics. Well, it looks like we were dead wrong. Last season wasn’t an anomaly, it was just the beginning. This season, despite Houston adding arguably the most ball-dominant player in NBA history in Russell Westbrook, Harden has taken his one-on-one offensive game to a ridiculous level, pushing the bounds of what we considered possible.

Harden’s playing style, which resembles driveway basketball, seems like a gimmick. But it’s extremely effective in today’s NBA, and it has Houston (10-3) near the top of the West, trailing only the Lakers (11-2).  If you haven’t started to take Harden’s statistical feats seriously, that needs to change. To help you, I did a deep dive and found these five statistics that represent the absurdity of James Harden:

1. Harden is shooting 41.7 percent from the field, 33.2 percent from three

Harden averages 39.5 points although he’s shooting poorly through 13 games. His shot is so off  that the next 15 leading scorers all shoot higher percentages from the field. Combined, they average 48.6 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from three.

This prompts a couple questions: How is Harden scoring so much on such inefficient shooting and still leading the Rockets to the second-best record in the West? And will his scoring regress to the mean? The answer to the first question boils down to shot selection and free throws -– we’ll address those with some of the other absurd statistics below.

The answer to the second question might surprise you: His scoring will probably continue to increase. Why? Because Harden is a better shooter than this. As a matter of fact, Harden’s current field goal percentage would be the lowest since his rookie season (40.3 percent) , and his current three-point percentage would be the lowest in his entire career. In his seven previous seasons with Houston, Harden shot 44.3 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three. If you adjust his current stats to his average shooting percentages, he’d average 40.4 points.

Look a little deeper, however, and you’ll see that Harden had two bad shooting games to start the season and has shot efficiently since. If you take away his first two games (19- and 29-point efforts), chalking those up to getting used to playing with Westbrook and getting his regular season legs under him, Harden is averaging 42.3 points. Minus those two games, he’s shooting exactly how he has always shot while on the Rockets -– 44.2 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from three. 40 points per game is happening, people!

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