Harden, coming off a runner-up MVP campaign, infamously entered camp out of shape after an offseason highlighted by a brief relationship with Khloe Kardashian.
Houston immediately fell short of lofty high expectations, and Kevin McHale took the fall for a 4-7 start to the season. The Rockets still managed to squeak into the Playoffs, where they lost in five games to the Warriors.
Through all the struggles, Harden still got his. The Beard’s numbers alone—29.0 ppg, 7.5 apg and 6.1 rpg and 25.3 PER—were indicative of what the 27-year-old is capable of bringing to the table.
He’s an offense unto himself, able to get to the line at will, knocking down shots from mid-range and three, while playing point guard for his team.
Harden personally accounted for a whooping 13.3 win shares—or nearly a third of Houston’s wins last season.
Given the disaster that was the Rockets’ 2015-16 season, it’s fair to say that a James Harden-led team will be, at least, a .500 ball club.
Critics point to Harden’s still-atrocious defense, propensity to pout during adversity, inability to make his teammates better, and record-setting sums of turnovers as reasons to place him a tier below the game’s upper echelon.
There have been questions about his work ethic, focus and will to win.
Part of this is due to the Rockets being one of the most disappointing stories of the 2015-16 campaign. But, for a player who dominates the ball like Harden, it’s impossible not to project a large percentage of the blame on him.
For presumably these reasons, Harden wasn’t selected to an All-NBA team last year—something that hasn’t happened since he was traded to H-Town.
He’ll have a formidable roster with the additions of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon along with vets Nene and Pablo Prigioni.
And James Harden may finally prove himself to be the leader, winner and generally unstoppable talent that we all know he’s capable of becoming.
JAMES HARDEN SLAM TOP 50 HISTORY
|SLAM Top 50 Players 2016|
Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2016-17—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.
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