Neck and Neck - ESPN Insider’s Bradford Doolittle projected the best SG’s of the coming season based on Wins Above Replacement Player, and ranked Harden second, by a hair, behind Dwayne Wade. Wade’s WARP was 11.8, and Harden’s was 11.7. On Harden, he writes:
The winner of the most improved player award is often just the guy who got the opportunity he always deserved. Harden finished seventh in that voting last season, so there wasn’t as much recognition for how good he was in Oklahoma City as there should have been. The biggest uptick in his game was the fact that he played nearly 1,000 more minutes than he ever had before. This season, I wouldn’t expect that playing time to dip, and while a high-volume perimeter player would be hard-pressed to be more efficient than Harden already is, it will be fascinating to see if Dwight Howard’s presence propels him to the front of the MVP race.
The gap after Harden was wide, with Manu Ginobli coming in 3th with a WARP of 8.0 and Kobe at 4th with 7.0. Makes you wonder if those WARP projections could have been a part of Morey’s pitch to Howard.
How My Beard Taste, Kobe? – M. De Moor at Yahoo Sports claims Harden has already taken the mantle from Kobe as the league’s top 2-guard (I guess Wade doesn’t get a say in this). De Moor qualifies his claim thusly:
This doesn’t mean that Harden will have a better prime than Bryant, or that he’ll have more rings than Bryant, because that question can’t be answered until the two of them have their jerseys hanging from the rafters. Bryant’s demise was inevitable, and two years ago, no one in their right mind thought that Harden had a chance at rivaling Bryant for the league’s best 2. However, with Bryant’s latest injury and age, the nightmare that was last year for the Lakers, and the promise that Houston showed last season, the argument can now be made.
That’s fair. Even as one of the biggest Kobe haters on the planet, I can’t claim that Harden is better than Kobe was circa 2004, especially on defense. It was a good weekend for Harden-love, but it didn’t end there…
Marketable – Nike is showcasing James Harden through their #summerisserious campaign with a new video. It’s easily Harden’s best beard-picking, Eurostepping commercial appearance yet.
The deadpan fingerwag is always a crowd-pleaser. Harden isn’t in Blake Griffin territory yet as an endorser, but he’s displaying a lot of upside here.
Bet You Didn’t Know That - So I came across this article on Hardwood Paroxysm about the 12 Best Offensive Players based on their Offensive Rating (points scored per 100 possessions). I scrolled down looking for James Harden when–oh hey! Greg Smith!
Greg Smith scores his points in a way quite similarly to Tyson Chandler: at the rim. An impressive 85% of his shots came on shots not classified as “jumpshots,” and he drew fouls an even more impressive 19.9% of the time. Where Chandler operates out of the pick and roll and uses his immense size to deter potential defensive adjustments, Smith moves away from the paint entirely, picking his spots and waiting for the defense to be drawn to teammate, generally James Harden on another foray into the paint. Smith gets a fair amount of work on put backs and tip ins, but primarily seems to function as a secondary option in the pick and roll, which he uses to great effect as a more viable option off the catch than Omer Asik, whom he’s able to use as a shield of sorts to get to the rim unnoticed.
Part of this is, assuredly, due to his status as a relative unknown. It’s entirely conceivable that he just doesn’t appear on scouting reports. The Thunder seemed to have an idea of how to get rid of him in the playoffs, which is disconcerting. With the addition of Dwight Howard, however, it stands to reason that Smith will get more than his fair share of open looks near the basket. He presents himself well to passers, has good hands, and is generally a powerful finisher. He has next to no jumper to speak of, and his post moves when forced to score on his own are rudimentary, but he’s got more than enough to stick in this league and prove that his efficiency last season was not a fluke.
James Harden was not on the list. Getting back to the title of this segment, I bet you didn’t know that Greg Smith was Houston’s most efficient scorer last year. Also, that line about Smith getting more good looks with Howard on the team is probably bunk; Howard will get all of the good looks that made Smith so efficient, and Smith will be lucky to crack the rotation.
Movie Quotes- Everybody loves them. Jason Gallagher at Ballerball loves them so much that he wrote a spinoff from Bill Simmons’ recent column based on movie quotes. Gallagher chose Gigli as his muse (questionable choice if you’re not going for comedic value, but he was, so it’s ok). He had a number of Dwight and Rockets related insights, but this one stood out:
“What do you morons think, that this is little Italy? Wake up! THIS IS THE TWENTY-F***IN’-FIRST CENTURY!
It’s a new day, everyone. Daryl Morey is teaching you, me, and every person affiliated with NBA how to honorably rebuild a team in 2013.
There is a ton to be impressed by with Morey, with all the analytic thinking and shockingly awesome ping-pong, but the thing I’m most in awe of is the fact that he made Houston a desirable place for modern day superstar to live. Nothing against Houston, but it’s certainly no LA, NY, or MIA.
The biggest takeaway from the summer is that teams are trying to get smarter. The NBA sees what Morey is doing and they are slowly waking up.
Except the Nets. YOLO-4-LYFE – MODE-4-LYFE.
The quote that Gallagher chose to represent Kobe’s pitch to Dwight is so choice, but my inner FCC won’t allow me to copy it. Just click on the link and enjoy.
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