To my knowledge, RPM is probably the best statistic we have at our disposal in the public domain, particularly for defensive measurements. RPM seeks to neutralize against variables such as teammates and bench replacements. Based on the annual data above, James Harden has actually been even worse defensively this season than he was last season, though that narrative has not emerged. It goes to show the role team success plays in shaping not only public perception but also institutional agenda.
However, Harden has been even better this year offensively than he was last season. Last season, Harden’s ORPM of 5.37 brought him to an RPM of 4.39. This year, Harden has an ORPM of 7.01 and an RPM of 5.79.
By the way, Damian Lillard had a DRPM of -3.16 last season, but you never heard about it. (It’s improved to -2.19 this year). Fellow MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas has a DRPM of -4.44, but there haven’t been any clips there either, to my knowledge.
Credit to the reader cited above for bringing this to my attention. As I said in Episode 118, it’s tempting to look at Houston’s 4-6 record over their last ten games and conclude the team has reverted to its true self. But the above figures suggest a different conclusion. The Rockets are just tired right now and its showing. Still on a 56-win pace, I expect things to normalize a bit, particularly after the break when tired legs will finally get a chance to rest.
I mentioned yesterday that Patrick Beverley was second amongst point guards in DRPM. Beverley finished fifth in 2013-2014, and dropped all the way down to 25th the next year in 2014-2015. He climbed back up to fifth again in 2015-2016 at 1.01 and this year has been even better at 1.81. (By the way, look at Chris Paul at 3.69! I maintain that Paul is the most underrated superstar of his generation).
At shooting guard, Eric Gordon is 37th at -0.29. That was probably to be expected.
Among small forwards, Trevor Ariza is back up to 11th thus far after falling to 39th last year. Ariza was eighth in 2014-2015.
The highest ranked Rocket at power forward is rookie Chinanu Onuaku at 39th. Ryan Anderson is down at 84th which, like Gordon, was to be expected. And Montrezl Harrell is at 74th. That too probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
Among centers, Nene is seventh at 3.08. Meanwhile, Clint Capela is all the way down at 52nd, with a DRPM of 0.63. Those two stats definitely came as a surprise. While Capela’s decline in efficacy since the start of the year has been plainly evident, I did not realize Nene had been faring so well. And I did not think Capela had slipped so far below average.