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@  Buckko : (04 January 2014 - 09:42 PM) If Hazewinkle used mediocre at best to describe the rockets right now, I wonder what his opinions on the Texans were.
@  Opasido : (04 January 2014 - 08:49 PM) Shouldve crushed the knicks though. They were on B2B and melo injured, rockets were pretty refreshed. oh well
@  rocketrick : (04 January 2014 - 02:48 PM) If the Rockets are truly "mediocre at best" per Hazewinkle, what does that mean for the rest of the NBA (22/30 teams with lower winning % than us)?
@  RollingWave : (04 January 2014 - 12:44 PM) With Lin, I notice he looked like he took a hit or something early in the 3rd. that and/or maybe Tyson Chandler figured out something with how he play screens and out smarted him
@  RollingWave : (04 January 2014 - 12:43 PM) for all the crap he took Garcia played pretty well this game, Smith was really quite but managed to defend the paint pretty well too
@  RollingWave : (04 January 2014 - 12:39 PM) though this game for once almost all the bench guys had a good game in +/-
@  RollingWave : (04 January 2014 - 12:36 PM) Lin was legitimately awful in the 3rd, which was strange, I took a look again and he played the screens really well in the first 2 quarter then suddenly couldn't read any screen in the 3rd
@  rocketrick : (04 January 2014 - 11:56 AM) The Knicks shot only 25% in the 4th quarter. AB, Garcia plus D12, Harden and Parsons were the most effective defensive rotation tonight.
@  Dayak : (04 January 2014 - 05:48 AM) Hot hand? 1-8 FGM-A. Lol, SMH.
@  Dayak : (04 January 2014 - 05:47 AM) Thank you J.R. Smith. I just couldn't understand why McHale keep Brooks play for the entire 4th quarter
@  HazeWinkle : (04 January 2014 - 03:59 AM) i mean allowing defensive rebounding
@  HazeWinkle : (04 January 2014 - 03:54 AM) rockets got away with one but man our defense and offensive rebounding need alot of work
@  Opasido : (04 January 2014 - 03:33 AM) Anybody else see in the last 20 seconds Bargnani wide open for a dunk if he just turned around? And JR Smith with that boneheaded 3? Won the game due to Knick's boneheaded mistakes
@  rm90025 : (04 January 2014 - 03:33 AM) Rockets were very lucky because of JR Smith's complete lack of basketball IQ.
@  Chai : (04 January 2014 - 03:29 AM) wow i think my heart just missed a beat those last possessions.
@  HazeWinkle : (04 January 2014 - 03:16 AM) Harden made a play on defense\
@  HazeWinkle : (04 January 2014 - 02:55 AM) this team is mediocre at best
@  2016Champions : (03 January 2014 - 08:28 PM) Anyway, I'm glad to hear there was a players only meeting. Having a good long talk is exactly what was needed, plus a good practice session. The 2 days rest came at a great time. The schedule gets a lot easier from here, 75% of the remaining games are against sub .500 teams
@  2016Champions : (03 January 2014 - 07:24 PM) It definitely is tiring, but is that a good excuse?
@  BrentYen : (03 January 2014 - 07:16 PM) I guess it is to tiring to run it, especially for bigs?


James Harden's Offensive Expansion

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#1 Red94


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    Posted 02 January 2014 - 03:00 PM

    New post: James Harden's Offensive Expansion
    By: michael pina

    James Harden is the analytical era’s most accepted high volume scorer. Nearly all his points accumulate behind the three-point arc, in the restricted area, or at the free-throw line—in the form of many, many free-throws every game.

    These happen to be the most desirable scoring locations on a basketball court, and nobody uses them with more uncompromising concentration than Harden. Now 34 games into the season, Harden's offensive repertoire is expanding to an unlikely area: the mid-range.

    As last season dragged on, the already low percentage of Harden’s points coming from the mid-range got smaller and smaller. In March it dropped down to 4.5%. In April (eight games), 2.9%. During six playoff games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, just 2.5% of all Harden’s points came from the mid-range. These numbers are downright admirable in their absurdity for someone who shoots and scores as often as Harden does.

    (Harden was at 4.6% in his last season with the Thunder, and 7.8% the year before that.)

    Here are two shot charts that map out the slight redistribution of Harden’s offensive output from last year to now. The first comes from the 2012-13 season.

    As expected, a huge chunk of Harden's attempts came from behind the three-point line and nearly half came in the paint.

    The difference between the two distribution charts is both minor and significant. Harden's attempts from the mid-range are up 3.4%, with fewer forays into the paint and even more shots from deep. Thanks to the addition of Dwight Howard, the increase in threes was to be expected. But did anybody think one out of ever five shots attempted by Harden would be a long two?

    Look at how Harden performed last season from the mid-range.

    Now compare the red splotches found inside the three-point line with what's taken place so far this season.

    The sample size is particularly small here—it's unlikely he remains as poor from the right side as he is lights out from the left—but this may indicate that Harden is on his way to establishing another area of his offensive game.

    There are pros and cons to be found. For starters, there’s the hopeful finding that he can be just as dangerous a scorer from less coveted areas as he is from the spots his name has become synonymous with. Defenses know how Harden likes to attack, and what we may be seeing this season is a young All-Star adapting to those adjustments and still thriving as one of the league’s top offensive weapons.

    Harden's PER remains above his career average and his overall field goal percentage is slightly higher than last year. He still attacks the rim. The free-throw line remains his best friend; Kevin Durant is the only player to make more free-throws than Harden this season. But he's been disappointing from behind the three-point line, hanging on to the 30% mark like George Clooney did floating space debris in Gravity.

    According to mySynergySports, he's also utilizing the post a bit more; a fair amount coming against smaller guards who allow Harden to shoot over the top or bully them down low. Here he's shown fantastic timing, refusing to make his move until a helping big slides back to the opposite side of the paint to avoid a three-second violation.

    He's a scorer, and the best scorers need to utilize as much of the court as possible. Harden's fallen in love with a sugary step back jumper that’s just about impossible to block and seemingly affords wide open looks whenever he wants them (like the LaMarcus Aldridge baseline turnaround or the one-legged Dirk Nowitzki fall away).

    Here are a few looks where Harden receives a high screen then reads the defense perfectly. The first two happened moments apart in a game against Portland earlier this season.


    And here's the same thing against the Spurs. Harden recognizes the space Tim Duncan has given him, sees there are four Spurs in the paint to prevent a drive to the rim (or an effective role by Howard), and figures an open jump shot from the foul line is as good a look as Houston will get on this possession. He's right.


    Not all is perfect with the increase in mid-range shots, though. We all know a long two isn’t better than a three. But not all long twos are the same. Some are necessary. Unfortunately, Harden’s been prone to jack up a fare share of shots that could best be described as "not necessary"—contested attempts that come with the shot clock winding down on possessions where Houston’s offense show absolutely no movement or action to make the defense work.

    Almost all Harden’s long twos come off the dribble, too, which is less accurate than a spot up shot. He does almost everything by himself. Screens are used, sure, but only 2.6% of all his made field goals are assisted.



    Both of these designed clear outs are the type of look Houston (and all teams, for that matter) should avoid as much as possible. Both are cases where Harden settles on the perimeter. In the first clip against Denver he has Evan Fournier on him with plenty of time and space to attack the rim and draw a foul. He does not attack the rim and draw a foul.

    This is hero ball. A tiny bit of it never hurt anybody, but too much—even from an extremely gifted scorer like Harden—can seriously damage a team’s offensive rhythm. The modification to Harden’s game isn’t enormous, but change still exists. Long twos are not sought after on a team wide scale, but for individual scorers they remain an important part of the game.

    Houston can’t race up and down the court on every possession. Games get slower in the playoffs, when the league’s very best defenses will have ample time to strategize ways to prevent Harden from doing what he wants—which, primarily, is still driving to the rim and shooting threes. Half-court possessions won’t be easy, and Harden will need to prosper in other, less ideal ways. Given his troubles behind the three-point line, it's certainly positive that he's been able to take a few steps in and knock down jump shots.

    His game is growing. Good news for any basketball player, especially a young one on a max contract. But given Harden's offensive responsibilities—the countless ways Houston depends on him to create various scoring opportunities—it's tough to say whether this trend is costly or profitable until we see his productive means unfold in the playoffs. Right now it's a little bit of both.

    Michael Pina has bylines at Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Bleacher Report, Sports On Earth, and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.

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    #2 2016Champions



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    Posted 02 January 2014 - 05:48 PM

    Harden gets so wide open in that mid range that it has become a good shot for him to take. Defenders are so scared of him going to the rim that they give up the midrange completely.
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    #3 linonlyfan



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      Posted 03 January 2014 - 01:00 AM

      Nice post. Agree with 2016, I think defences are keying in on the fact Houston denies themselves the midrange jumper and using a collapse hard and recover to 3pt line hard defense. Harden can finish over traffic with his length but Lin doesn't have that ability and we are also seeing him take more midrange shots if he can't beat everyone to the hoop. Aaron Brooks actually manages to finish with some nonstandard moves.


      On the 3, I rarely see uncontested Harden 3's anymore unless he is 4 feet behind the line. Part of it is he has the ball in his hands a lot and isn't a great off ball player. Hope to see his 3pt % go up as he adjusts to the heightened attention or they somehow use Howard to create more open 3 pointers.

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      #4 feelingsupersonic



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      Posted 03 January 2014 - 05:28 AM

      Great piece Michael, thanks! I believe Harden is doing fine this year especially when you account for all the defenses that are game planning for him as you mentioned. I imagine if Harden had started the year a little healthier and with a little more luck on his 3 point percentage, he would be would be having a pretty amazing year. He is still young and has many years ahead of him as a Rocket.

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