Let's look at some more numbers. Sorry for the long post. Apparently I needed some catharsis.
James Harden leads the league with 149 turnovers. He averages 4.5/game. He sports an assist to turnover ratio of 1.52.
Per basketball-reference.com, James Harden--MVP-runner-up and NBA superstar--has a +/- of -1 per 100 possessions. Yes, you read that correctly. When James Harden is on the court the Rockets operate in the negative.
It's not just one thing. It's the 34% shooting from deep on 8 attempts per game. It's the ever decreasing frequency with which he gets to the rim (down to 23% of his total shots--last season he was at 31%. To his credit he is converting a solid 65% of those.). It's the 37% of his shots he takes from mid-range at sub-standard efficiency.
He is dunking less. In fact, he has tracked steadily downward since his second year with OKC when 7% of his total shot attempts were dunks. This year he is at 1%.
James Harden leads the league in minutes played, field goal attempts, free throws, free throw attempts, and total points (in addition to the turnover lead). His usage rate is the highest of his career at 32.8 (currently).
To look at his basic stat line is misleading.
28.6 pts 6.1 rebs 6.9 asts 1.6 stls
He's fillin' up the stat sheet!
The problem is he is doing it inefficiently. His TS% of .580 is the lowest since his rookie season. TS% includes that bevy of free throws he takes every game. Harden's eFG% (no free throws here) is at .484 also the lowest since his rookie season. Harden's regular FG% is .416 but that is largely due to the 8.0 three pointers he takes per game.
Combine that with the turnovers and it's not difficult to understand why we have so many losses.
Watching the Rockets play offense reminds me of watching the UT Longhorns during the Mack Brown era--particularly in the OU game against Bob Stoops. Mack Brown was so dead-set on his style of offense that he refused to adjust--no matter what. Stoops, being a good and smart football coach made adjustments and game-planned accordingly and if you look at the list of worse losses in UT football history you'll see a lot of OU games. It got so bad there was a 5-year stretch (all OU wins) where the average score was 38 to 11 for OU. The only reason it looks that close is because OU scored 12 once to drop their average and UT scored 24 once to boost ours. Take those out and it's 44 to 8. Those were really good UT teams too.
The point is the Rockets remind me of Brown and UT because they keep doing the same thing over and over while, seemingly, expecting a different result. We all know what that means...
There is strong backlash when anyone suggests that Harden may be the problem and it might be prudent to trade him. I get it. I just don't agree with it.
If I told you about a team with a ball-hogging point guard who shoots inefficiently and turns the ball over at a high rate while being an average distributor and slacking off on defense what would you think of that team's chances? Well, that's what we're working with. Harden may maintain his SG status, but he plays the PG role for us.
That's another part of the problem. We don't need a Ty Lawson (unless Harden will give up the rock, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen). We need a Wes Matthews. Khris Middleton. Danny Green (back when he could shoot, that is). George Hill. Beverley does a solid job, but I think those guys would all be upgrades.
The reason we need a "secondary" play-maker is because Harden is an average one playing the role of a great one. Don't look at the base stats--look at the numbers behind those stats. 7 assists. 4.5 turnovers. That means for every 7 scoring opportunities he puts on the table he is taking 4.5 off. That is a net of +2.5 for each game. Lots of those turnovers lead to easy buckets for the other team. That is the guy running our offense.
Sure, we're putting up points. We're playing the 6th fastest pace in the league and we have played a relatively weak schedule (ranked 26th in strength). That makes everything worse than it may seem.
The worst part of all this? It doesn't even begin to include the defensive problems.