James Harden vs. Tracy McGrady

Tracy McGrady’s best year in a Rockets uniform came in 2004-2005, his first in Houston, when he was 25 years old.  McGrady averaged 25.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.7 assists on the year.  He shot 43% overall, 33% on 3’s, and 47% on 2’s.  He got to the line for 7.1 free throw attempts per game.  By comparison, James Harden this season, at age 25, is averaging 27.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game.  Harden is shooting 45% overall, 38% on 3’s, and 49% on 2’s.  He’s getting to the line 9.6 times per game.

McGrady turned the ball over 9.5 times per 100 possessions; Harden’s rate is at 15.3.  Each player has a usage percentage of 31% for the respective years in question.

McGrady shot 37% of his field goals from between 16 feet and the 3 point line, at an accuracy rate of 44%.  His next highest attempted area was from beyond the 3 point line, where he took 26% of his attempts, at 33%, as aforementioned.  Harden, on the other hand, takes 38% of his shots from beyond the 3 point line, shooting them at 38%.  Harden’s next highest attempted area is at the rim where he takes 31% of his shots, with a 62% accuracy rate.  (McGrady shot 57% at the rim in ’05).  Also, Harden takes only 13% of his shots from between 16 feet and the 3 point line, McGrady’s favorite area on the court.  Harden is shooting 34% from that area.

I never thought we’d see a shooting guard in Houston better than McGrady’s inaugural season.  At the time of his acquisition, he was arguably, at worst, the second best player in the entire league.  But James Harden, already, at a similar age, (though with lesser experience since T-Mac jumped straight from high school), is putting up numbers better than anything T-Mac did with the Rockets. Harden has gotten better during his time here while McGrady, sadly, peaked in that first season, and slowly deteriorated from then onward.

Unlike McGrady, you expect Harden to age gracefully with continued improvement.  While his reputation was as a dunk artist, what’s misunderstood is that by this point, McGrady was already finely skilled in the intricate aspects of basketball.  In fact, his strengths in the mid range could even be taken as detrimental as he shied away from the paint more and more over the years.  Harden, on the other hand, is just now figuring things out from the mid-range.  McGrady, at 6’9, could just rise over any opponent for a jumpshot whenever he wanted it.  Harden, however, has to step back, or step out, to get a clean look.

The strides Harden has made this season are pretty incredible.  The ball-handling is crisper, but he’s also worked hard to improve on some of his glaring tendencies.  As recently as even the beginning of this season, he’d almost always drive left and step out to his right.  This became predictable, with smart defenders jumping on his spots.  As we’ve seen recently, Harden is now driving with both hands, and stepping out in both directions.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of www.Red94.net.

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