|Posted by coryinhouston on February 10, 2013 at 4:50 PM|
Harden was considered the best bench player in NBA when he was playing for the Thunder, and for good reason. He was instant offense off the bench. He could score at will, heat up easily, and was a great playmaker with his passing abilities. After being traded to the Houston Rockets, Harden went from bench spark to franchise centerpiece. He's already had dominating performances, and has kept up his great play all season.
The Rockets were expected to be the bottom feeders in the Western Conference. They gutted their team, waiving their veteran power forward Luis Scola with the amnesty clause, traded their starting point guard Kyle Lowry to the Raptors, lost their other point guard Goran Dragic to free agency, and became the youngest team in the NBA. The expectations were really low. Until general manager Daryl Morey made the trade Houston has been waiting for for the past three season. He finally acquired an all-star caliber player to build the team around.
It's safe to say Harden and the Rockets have been better than expected. They are currently the 8th seed in the West and have been playing very well this season, besides a few ugly losing streaks that were typical of a young team. The Rockets beat the Trail Blazers 118-103 in an important victory with both teams fighting to secure a playoff spot. Harden was on fire in that game, hitting 13 of 16 of his field goals, scoring 35 points and also dishing out 11 assists.
Harden's play has been incredible, and at the young age of 23 he primed to be a great player in this league. But is James Harden a superstar? He is certainly a top 5 shooting guard right now, falling behind Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, and arguably Manu Ginobili. With all these players reaching the twilight years of their career, Harden hasn't even reached his prime yet, setting the path for him to become the best shooting guard in the league in the next few years, along with Paul George who has also shown vast improvements this season when being asked to carry the load.
Harden is 5th in the league in scoring (26.0ppg), and is obviously the main scoring option for the Rockets. But he isn't just a scorer. The offense goes through Harden, as he often initiates the fast break and is a great passer. He often sets up Chandler Parsons and Carlos Defino at the three-point line as the defense collapses in on him when he drives the lane. His ability to drive the lane is elite, as he is leading the league in free throws and "and-one" plays.
James Harden is proving that he will be a superstar in this league, and perhaps in some eyes he already is. He has the NBA's youngest team in the playoff mix and will continue to improve as he gets more experience as a team centerpiece.