To many of noteworthy critics around the league, the signing of Mike D’Antoni to a three-year $15M deal with the Houston Rockets was criticized and tagged as possibly his last-stand in the NBA.
Although D’Antoni and his stint with the Phoenix Suns contributed in the revolution of the NBA as more of a primary spread pick-and-roll scoring threat rather than operating from the post-out, the praise hasn’t always been there.
Ball movement, spacing, player movement & offensive flow have been D’Antoni’s strengths as an implementer, couple that with the natural abilities of James Harden, and now Houston, the NBA has a problem.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo’s ‘The Vertical’ mentioned that incorporating Harden into his offence was ‘impossible to resist’ – given the numbers in the young season, this statement is proving dividends. Since D’Antoni has handed Harden the keys to his offence, he’s averaged a league-best 12.5 assists, along with 28.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Familiar to the offence anchored by future hall of famer, Steve Nash, in Phoenix, James Harden has been virtually unstoppable in spread pick-and-roll sets with center Clint Cappela and backcourt mate Eric Gordon who’ve been major beneficiaries.
Sitting in the middle of the pack at 8-5 in the Western Conference, Harden will be among the top front runners in consideration for the MVP honour if his numbers hold up. Almost averaging a triple-double, Harden’s game has elevated and become more difficult to contain given the fact that he’s an efficient three-point shooter as well as effective in drawing fouls and converting at the line.
Once the pick-and-roll initiates on the offensive end, Harden has been able to make smart and quick decisions that has helped the Rockets cement themselves in the top-three as league leaders in points per game at 109.1.
“We’ve been playing against each other since high school,” Patrick Beverley said. “[Harden] can ball, man; he doesn’t get enough credit. I feel like he’s the best playmaker in the NBA right now. His IQ is high; every year he gets better. I feel like he doesn’t get enough credit, but it’s cool. We’re going to to turn it around this year by getting wins instead.”
Harden is building chemistry with a number of teammates that opponents will find awfully difficult to try and slow down this season. Don’t be surprised if “The Beard” accumulates a number of MVP votes by season’s end.