James Harden: The chronicles of an iso connoisseur

James Harden: The chronicles of an iso connoisseur

James Harden is something much more of the superstar and the every year MVP candidate we saw throughout the nine seasons he spent in Houston.

He became the main antagonist of a basketball movement that started in Golden State around the year 2014.

A basketball movement that included two generational shooters and fantastic on and off the ball playmaking.

On the other hand, Harden and the Rockets were playing isolation basketball on steroids with Harden in the front-line.

The Arrival

After failing to reach to an agreement with the Oklahoama City Thunder, James Harden was traded to Houston Rockets along with Lazar Hayward, DeQuan Cook and Cole Aldrich in exchange for  Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first round picks, and a second round pick on October 27, 2012.

That day Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman reported the reason behind OKC’s Sam Presti decision to trade the 2012 Sixth Man of the Year.

The deal comes on the heels of negligible progress being made on a contract extension for Harden following nearly four months of negotiating that began on July 1. As a result, the Thunder parted ways with the fan favorite after stagnant talks made it clear Harden would be too much of a financial burden to keep.

Darnell Mayberry, The Oklahoman

Harden was shipped to the Rockets and immediately became the foundational piece of the Houston’s building process under general manager Daryl Morey.

The Rockets were experiencing a three-season playoff drought and the up-and-coming NBA executive hoped Harden was the missing piece for a squad headlined by Jeremy Lin.

“James Harden is a player we can build around, and continue to improve the team around his skills,” Morey said. “He’s an elite offensive player, a complete player. He can pass, shoot, attack the basket. Even though he’s a gold medalist, an Olympian and made the Finals, I still think he’s an underrated player. He’s absolutely someone who, when they see him step into the role of a star for the Houston Rockets, people are going to realize just how good he is.”

As it was reported by Associated Press via ESPN

Harden did not lose time and became a force to reckon with in the offensive end averaging career highs in all statistical categories in the first starting role of his career.

The Rockets’ superstar had the sixth most three-points attempts in the league, he was also the leading star in attempted free throws as he was making 8.6 per contest.

He had 9.8 Offensive Win Shares at the age of 23 ranked as the fourth best individual in this category.

Harden’s historic season ended up with Houston first playoff berth in three years. Harden was named an All-Star and a member of the All-NBA third team.

But that was only the beggining.

Becoming the Face of ‘Moreyball’

Daryl Morey is leaning heavy on the basketball analytics that encourages players to shoot from specific areas of the floor and defend accordingly.

In that case, Harden was a fine specimen of that strategy attacking with deadly accuracy around the basket and taking advantage of his ability to draw contact.

‘Moreyball’ encourage three-point field goals and lay-ups over mid-range jumpers. Harden was exactly that type of player.

The Rockets never lost the postseason through the 9 years Harden spent in the Clutch City. Since 2015, Harden had the highest Usage Rating in the league with +30% in each one of the seasons.

Morey went all in during Harden’s tenure on his analytics-based strategy offering his superstar all the available “accommodations” to succeed in this system.

He never hesitated to bring another star alongside Harden, who played with Dwight Howard in his early years.

Houston also signed Chris Paul in 2016 and even his former OKC teammate and 2016 MVP Russell Westbrook.

The Arizona product was unstoppable during the regular season every year leading Houston to consecutive successful regular season campaigns.

Being Constantly on Isolation

Harden is attacking the mismatches with surgical precision as he led the league in points from iso situation every year since 2015/16 season.

He became so good at producing in those situations that 45% of his possessions in offense came from isolating his opponents from various spots.

By Kirk Goldsberry

During the 2018/19 season, Harden averaged a whooping 16.4 isolation possessions per game during the regular season with DeMar DeRozan being second with just 4.0 possessions per contest.

By Kirk Goldsberry

In his last season with the Rockets, Harden averaged 15.8 points per game producing 1.12 points per play. Harden’s effectiveness in those situations led him to be on the 91.5 percentile of the league at isolation scoring with 45% of his points coming from isolation plays.

Future In Brooklyn

Harden will need to do so some catch up as a member of the Brooklyn Nets, as his trade was finalized last week.

The 2018 MVP is going to enter a pretty different situation in regard of being the focal point of an offense with other two superstars by his side.

The first two games with the Nets are pretty encouraging as he and Kevin Durant led the team to a 2-0 record in the games vs. Milwaukee and Orlando.

The Nets formed one of the most talented trio we have ever seen on a court with the addition of Harden.

But to succeed on the bigger stage, Steve Nash will need to coordinate a perfectly balanced offense between Irving, Durant and Harden.

However, for the first time in his career, Harden has the most talented players by his side. Maybe this time his heroics could lead to an NBA title, the first in James Harden’s illustrious career.

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