Since it’s the beginning of the new year, we figured there was no better a time to see how James Harden is stacking up for the competition. Luckily for us, The Beard is dominating the exact stat we were scouting.
Let’s be honest here: we really wouldn’t report on it if he wasn’t, right?
FiveThirtyEight.com released its RAPTOR’s top five player list updated for Jan. 1, and it shows Harden’s value just absolutely being far greater than the rest. For those of you about to blow a gasket over hearing a statistic named “RAPTOR,” here’s a quick explanation from their blurb when they introduced the statistic at the beginning of the season:
Like BPM and RPM, RAPTOR is a plus-minus statistic that measures the number of points a player contributes to his team’s offense and defense per 100 possessions, relative to a league-average player. For instance, a player with an offensive RAPTOR rating of +2.1 boosts his team’s performance by 2.1 points per 100 offensive possessions while he is on the floor.
In three of the four major RAPTOR statistics, Harden leads the group by a large margin. For RAPTOR Wins Above Replacement, Harden maintains a +9.5, with the next closest being Giannis Antetokounmpo at +6.3, then LeBron James at +6.1, Jimmy Butler at +5.9, and Luka Doncic at +5.4.
In Total RAPTOR, Harden is currently at a +12.3, with Giannis in second with a +9.4, then Butler at an +8.6, Luka in third with an +8.3, and Kawhi Leonard with an +8.1.
In Offensive RAPTOR, Harden is a +11, Doncic is a +8.7, then Karl-Anthony Towns is at a +7.2 LeBron comes in at +7.1, and Kemba Walker makes an appears at +6.9
None of the names listed above made the Defensive RAPTOR, except for Kawhi Leonard, including Antetokounmpo.
To really get a grasp as to how impressive it is that Harden leads the three aforementioned categories by a large margin, Doncic has a +1.5 margin in OFF RAPTOR between him and second, yet he comes in only fifth in RAPTOR WAR and fourth in total RAPTOR. LeBron is fourth and third in OFF RAPTOR and RAPTOR WAR respectively, but he doesn’t place on the Total Raptor list. Most absurdly, Giannis posts a +3.1 DEF RAPTOR to Harden’s +1.3, is second in the league in scoring with 30.3 PPG, but Harden still runs away in the two categories Giannis lands in, and fails to make the Offensive RAPTOR list.
Oh, and I won’t let you skim over the fact that, not only is Harden only one of two players with an OFF RAPTOR of +8 or higher, but he’s the only one with a positive DEF RAPTOR (Luka Donic -0.3 DEF RAPTOR). In fact, he’s the only player on the top five OFF RAPTOR list with a DEF RAPTOR of +1 or greater: LeBron +.08, KAT +0.9, Walker -0.2.
So don’t let narratives confuse you.
Harden is having another unsung historically-great season, and it’s all due to the simple fact that he’s made his dominance a common occurrence for him, leading the league in scoring for a third consecutive season. Now that he’s boosted his FG% to a solid 46.1% and his 3P% to an unfathomable 38.3% on 13.5 attempts a game — coupled with his dominance in advanced metrics — maybe we can get the MVP conversation rolling again.