Following that dagger, Harden had set two new goals for himself. First, he wanted to tighten his undeniably lax defensive focus and cut back on ball-watching. (He’d rank 10th overall in defensive win shares last season.) Second, he wanted to improve his right, weaker hand. (Per Synergy Sports, he’d rise to the league’s 86th percentile on iso drives to the right after ranking in the 56th percentile the year before.) Now, when I ask about his plans for this season, Harden says something you might not expect of a player who relished control of every lever in Houston’s offense.“I’m looking forward to playing off the ball,” he tells me. His ultimate objective? Membership in the hallowed 50-40-90 club, reserved for those who shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 from 3 and 90 from the line in a season — which only six men in NBA history have ever done.Yes, a year after assisting on more 3s in a single season than anyone in history not named Steve Nash or Chris Paul, Harden wants to let the offense run through point guard Ty Lawson, the playmaker he urged Morey to procure in July. The goal: to manufacture more efficient looks for a scorer whose shot chart already looks like it was crowdsourced at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. “He’s just amazingly self-motivated,” Morey says.
The above from Pablo Torre’s recent profile of Harden for ESPN the Magazine.I noted many times last year that Harden had vastly improved at diversifying work with his off hand. In previous years, we’d see him, when going left, almost exclusively drive all the way to the basket; going right, he’d step back for the shot. However, he actually made improvements within the year last season, featuring a step-back off his left hand more prominently as the season wore on. Defenders no longer could sit on his drive as they had been doing early in the year.Adding Ty Lawson should be just what the doctor ordered in terms of reducing the burden on Harden. But it’s interesting to hear the directive to have Lawson run the offense stemmed from Harden himself. When speculation arose regarding the potential acquisition of other star point guards, Goran Dragic namely, many wondered whether Harden could co-exist with another ball dominant player. I suppose in this case, however, it helps that the two subjects hold a close personal relationship.