There was plenty of talk and speculation this offseason as to exactly what heights James Harden could lift his game this year in the Mike D’Antoni system. The coach is famous for sending his point guards through the stratosphere, and once it was announced that the Beard would be manning the duties at the point, the sky obviously became the limit for Harden.
Through the Rockets’ first five games, he has not only met every reasonable expectation coming in to the year, he’s already made the 2016-2017 season an historic one.
Harden is averaging 31.8 points, 12.4 assists and 7.0 rebounds so far this season, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. He had a 41-point, 15-assist game on Tuesday night in a loss against the Cavaliers and followed that up with a 30-point, 15-assist affair in last night’s drubbing of the Knicks.
Those two contests make him the first player in 30 years to have back-to-back games of at least 30 points and 15 assists. The last player to do it? The legendary Magic Johnson in 1986.
To top it off, he now has three games of at least 30 points and 15 assists on the young season thus far, with third the 34-point 17-assist opening night defeat at the hands of the Lakers. To put that into perspective, the entire NBA only had three such games combined in the whole of last season. This is truly historic stuff from the Beard.
Harden's has three games with 30 points and 15 assists this season. There were three such games in the entire NBA last season. https://t.co/lTHiR3LwuO— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 3, 2016
And it doesn’t stop there. According to Fansided, Harden is currently on pace for 49 double-digit assist games on the year. That’s something only 12 other players in the last 30 years have been able to achieve, and the names read like a venerable list of who’s who among NBA point men over the prior three decades: Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Chris Paul, John Stockton, Steve Nash, Kevin Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, Mookie Blaylock, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and Mark Jackson.
And perhaps the best part is a quote from D’Antoni in the same piece:
“Normally, they would just bring it up, then give it to him, then let him initiate the offense. And after he’s struggled to get the ball or had to wrestle to get the ball. We’re just trying to make it easier for him. Why camouflage it? You know that’s where it’s going. You know he has to make plays. So why not do it?”
In other words, the Rockets are going to run their offense, and they are fully aware the opponent knows where the ball is going, and they simply don’t care. The Rockets are daring teams to stop Harden. And the Beard is responding by still making history just five games into the regular season.
Buckle up, H-town. This year is shaping up to be one heck of a ride. It’s already been an historic one.