James Harden isolation stats

This was interesting.  Last season, James Harden went into isolation on 24.2% of his possessions, shooting 37% from the field, and scoring 41.5% of the time.  He led the league by a wide margin – 566 total isolation possessions; Carmelo Anthony was second with 393.  This year, Harden leads the league again, but by a smaller margin over Russell Westbrook (490 to 449 so far), devoting 23.7% of his possessions to one on one play.  He’s shooting 37.6% with a score frequency of 41.8%.  Kyrie Irving’s been the best isolation player in the NBA this year, shooting a ridiculous 48.5% on isolation possessions, with a score frequency of 50.7%, and scoring 1.15 points per possession on such plays.  (Harden has a PPP of 1.00).

It’s interesting to note that for the most part, Harden is isolating just as much this season as he did last season, despite the team’s frantic pace and philosophical overhaul (i.e. they actually have a coach and an offense and plays for the first time during the Harden era).  I don’t know what any of this means.  I think in the past, where, if it wasn’t a Harden ISO, it was some awkward Terrence Jones spot-up three or a grueling Dwight Howard post-up, whereas this year, if its not a Harden ISO, its some masterfully executed orchestration of some other brilliance.  Harden is still doing what he’s been doing, but everything else is cleaner.  A related observation, speaking of Jones: ever notice how if nothing is there, the Rockets will immediately pass the ball back to James Harden to reset?  That has to be a D’Antoni implementation.  Last season, you’d see Josh Smith or Terrence Jones awkwardly driving into space, resulting in wasted possessions.  It’s a simple formula: cut out the Howard postups and all the other garbage, and keep the ball in Harden’s hands, and the result is one of the best offenses of all-time.

in musings

On the Houston Rockets’ pace

  Pace Rank
10/25 – 10/29 99.69 19
10/30 – 11/5 99.98 16
11/6 – 11/12 98.57 15
11/13 – 11/19 99.85 15
11/20 – 11/26 99.17 15
11/27 – 12/3 99.94 9
12/4 – 12/10 101.34 7
12/11 – 12/17 103.97 2
12/18 – 12/24 98.29 16
12/25 – 12/31 106.64 1
1/1 – 1/7 98.27 14
1/8 – 1/14 103.09 7
1/15 – 1/21 104.16 2
1/22 – 1/28 107.06 1
1/29 – 2/4 101.74 11
2/5 – 2/11 105.87 2
2/12 – 2/18 94.10 27
2/19 – 2/25 108.95 2
2/26 – 3/4 101.13 7
3/5 – 3/11 101.52 4
3/12 – 3/18 104.54 5
3/19 – 3/25 107.78 2

At the time of writing, the Houston Rockets are playing at the fourth fastest pace in the NBA at 102.07.  That wasn’t always the case.  I remembered diving into the numbers early on and finding that the team was middle of the pack – at the beginning of the season, while the Rockets were playing well, they weren’t exactly Seven Seconds or Less.  I’ve compiled the team’s week by week pace in the chart above.  Note that the corresponding pace and rankings are not cumulative.  That is to say, the pace and rank for each week is just for the two to four games played that week.  Such an approach gives us a clearer understanding of impacting variables than what would have been provided by the cumulative scores.  And of course, as a whole, despite starting the season where they did, the Rockets are now at fourth.

[read more…]

in essays

Hakeem vs. Harden

I’ve had seven hours to reflect on this blasphemy, and I’m realizing I don’t regret making this statement.  Yes, I’m well aware of the challenges in making cross-positional, cross-generational comparisons.  (Sheesh, some of you have to take all of the fun out of life).  And yes, I’m aware of Hakeem’s postseason brilliance.  (As one reader noted, I’m not sure what relevance those circumstances have to my claim – we’re arguing abilities not historical body of work.)  But what James Harden is doing right now, in carrying an all-time offense, is at the very least on par with anything Olajuwon produced on that end.

Where Olajuwon, of course, set himself apart was the defensive end.  In fact, Olajuwon’s age 27 season (where Harden currently is), in 1989-1990, was the most prolific of his career on the boards and at the rim as he averaged a whopping 14 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game.  Imagine what those numbers would look like at the pace of today’s game.  In Olajuwon’s MVP season, 1993-1994, he averaged 27.3 points (the second highest mark of his career), 11.9 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks per game.  Harden is averaging 29.4 points, 11.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds.  The Rockets will probably finish close to the 58-24 mark they posted in 1993-1994.  I’m not going to break down the advanced metrics because its almost 9:00 P.M. and I don’t have the mental energy for that, and more importantly, those sorts of factors hold no weight in hypothetical banter of this sort.  For now, it will take a good argument to convince me against my claim.

in musings

Follow Red94 for occasional rants, musings, and all new post updates