Shut. Up. – The ESPN brain trust says James Harden will be the fourth-best player in the NBA this season. The Rockets brain trust says:
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) October 22, 2013
I was frankly shocked that he was ranked higher than Westbrook, and even more shocked when I saw that it was based off of Westbrook’s pre-injury ranking (Patrick Beverley can be seen lurking in Westbrook’s picture for the article. Clever).
As noted yesterday, offense-oriented guards seem to have gotten a lot of love from these rankings, while some defensive bigs have arguably been overlooked. But today Rockets fans can exult in the fact that within three years of saying goodbye to Tracy McGrady, the Rockets again have a top-5 player manning the shooting guard position.
Bird’s Eye View - A few days ago, Myles Ma wrote a fine season preview over at Hickory High. What makes the article even more interesting in light of Harden’s #NBArank, is that completely reasonable people have totally different reactions to Harden’s performance last season. Ma writes:
James Harden has to continue to prove that he’s worth max money after a somewhat disappointing showing in the playoffs. Omer Asik has to show he’s more than a backup. Jeremy Lin has to somehow find the middle ground between the impossible heights of Linsanity and the lows of last year, when he was at times benched in favor of Patrick Beverley. Chandler Parsons has to stay adorable. Dwight might have higher expectations than any of them. He’s the highest paid player on the team. James Harden might be the face of the franchise, but he can’t impact a game the way Dwight Howard does at his best.
Neither Ma’s piece nor #NBArank is the partisan work of uninformed fans, but they still paint very different pictures of a very good player.
Loweball – Grantland’s Zach Lowe has 32 bold predictions for the season. Lowe and behold, one of them involves the Rockets:
9. Houston Will Drop at Least Three Spots in the Pace Rankings, But Not Much More
Houston played at the league’s fastest pace last season, averaging about 99 possessions per game, according to NBA.com. Integrating a back-to-the-basket post player, as Howard fancies himself, slows down any team, and how dramatically Houston alters its very effective offensive attack to accommodate him is one of the biggest stories in the league.
He goes on to explain that most of Howard’s post-ups will be quick-hitters. Fingers crossed.
Let’s Just Go Home – Jason Friedman has an in-depth analysis of how the Harden-Howard PnR creates space up on the team’s website. The crown jewel of the article is the most audacious phrase ever used to describe Lebron James:
“the two-time defending champs down in Miami have unleashed fire and brimstone upon the NBA with their pace-and-space attack that revolves around LeBron James’ multifarious abilities and amorphous positional versatility”
James Harden may be the fourth-best player on the planet, but no one is calling him multifarious yet. Stay hungry, Mr. Harden.
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