Stats & Info: James Harden

Picking the most clutch in NBA playoffs

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
With the NBA playoffs starting Saturday, we’re bound to see tight games and pressure-packed situations. The question then becomes, whose hands do you want the ball in?

The top chart above shows each playoff team’s leader in clutch-time usage percentage this season, along with his true shooting percentage (which weighs three-point field goals greater and accounts for free throw shooting). Clutch-time is defined as situations in which the game is within five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.

The bottom chart shows each of those 16 players’ overall Player Efficiency Rating along with his PER in clutch-time situations.

Kevin Durant less efficient
Kevin Durant
First, no playoff team leans more on a player in clutch time than the Oklahoma City Thunder do with Kevin Durant. He’s the only one of the 16 who has a clutch-time usage percentage over 40 percent, and Durant’s is nearing 46 percent. However, his efficiency numbers drop off in crunch-time, as his PER drops from nearly 30 in all situations to just over 25 in crunch-time. That's still above league average, but it's below average among these 16 "go-to" guys.

His main opponent for league MVP, LeBron James, increases his already-high efficiency numbers in crunch-time, despite the Miami Heat leaning on him heavily.

Harden: Mister Clutch?
James Harden
Watch out for the Houston Rockets and James Harden. Harden has the highest clutch-time efficiency rating of the 16 players, with the second-highest usage rate. Mike Conley also ups his performance in crunch-time, which could put the Thunder on upset alert if the Memphis Grizzlies point guard gets hot late in their series.

Sticking with the Western Conference, Stephen Curry has hit all 31 of his crunch-time free throws this year, but has shot just 28 percent from 3-point range for the Golden State Warriors in those situations.

Who could struggle
Despite the Brooklyn Nets second-half surge, their clutch-time leader, Joe Johnson, is the worst of the 16 team leaders in terms of PER. LaMarcus Aldridge has also struggled in crunch-time for the Portland Trail Blazers, with an effective field goal percentage of 33 percent.

One of the main takeaways is that the crunch-time leader for the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks is not former NBA season and Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki, but instead Monta Ellis, who has taken possessions at a slightly-higher rate than Nowitzki.

James Harden struggles mightily vs Pacers

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6

James Harden is averaging just 17.0 PPG against the Pacers since becoming a Rocket.

Friday night at 9:30 ET on ESPN the Pacers will be in Houston to face the Rockets. Houston is 0-3 against Indiana since James Harden arrived in Houston last season. The biggest reason for the Rockets goose egg is how Indiana has bottled up Harden.

Harden is averaging just 17.0 points on 24.6 percent shooting in three games against the Pacers over that span (tied for his lowest scoring average against any team – Clippers).

Harden totaled just 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting in the only meeting between these teams this season back on December 20th in Indiana.

Paul George suffocating defense
Paul George has guarded Harden on over 60 percent of his shot attempts in those three games.

Harden is 9-of-35 shooting (26 percent) against George, and six of those makes have come with the help of a screen as the pick-and-roll ball handler.

Roy Hibbert protecting the rim
Harden is scoring just 3.3 paint points per game against the Pacers, compared with 8.5 against all other teams. He’s shooting 5-of-19 inside the paint against Indiana.

The defensive presence of Roy Hibbert is one reason why Harden can’t convert in the paint. His average shot distance (15 feet, six inches) is also two feet further out against the Pacers compared with other teams.

According to player track data on, opponents are shooting 41.7 percent at the rim when Hibbert is on the court. That mark is best among the 57 players whose opponents record at least 5 field goal attempts per game at the rim.

Pacers transition defense
Harden has led the NBA in transition points in each of the last two seasons, averaging 7.2 transition points per game.

The Pacers have allowed the fewest transition points per game in the NBA over that span, and have not let Harden get going with easy baskets.

He’s averaging 3.3 transition points per game against the Pacers, on 4-of-11 shooting in three games.

Similar styles set to clash in L.A.

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26

AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillThe Clippers and Rockets like to get out and run, as they both rank in the top five in transition scoring.
The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers meet for a third time this season Wednesday night (ESPN, 10:30 p.m. ET), and chances are the match-up will be fun to watch.

Off to the races
There will be no shortage of high-flying dunks and fast breaks, as the Clippers and Rockets rank one and two in the league in dunks, respectively. They also play at almost the same exact pace and both rank in the top five in the league in transition scoring.

James Harden scored 20 of his 43 points in transition Tuesday night against the Kings, adding to his league-leading average of 7.8 points per game in transition.

The Clippers have been able to keep Harden in check this season, though. In the first two matchups against the Clippers this season, Harden scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting in transition.

Blake Griffin leads the Clippers, and all NBA power forwards/centers in transition points and assists this season.

The Rockets enter Wednesday night’s game as one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

Houston is an NBA-best 18-5 since January 1. Fresh off a 26-point win against the Sacramento Kings, the Rockets have won 10 of its last 11 overall.

The Rockets entered January sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference. But Houston now sits in third place after a couple hot months and is one-and-a-half games back of the San Antonio Spurs.

Repeat performance?
The Clippers are 2-0 this season against the Rockets, winning by an average of 16.0 points per game.

Los Angeles found success against the Rockets by shooting well from long range, as well as having a balanced attack.

The Clippers averaged 12.0 three point field goals per game and show 38.7 percent from that distance in the first two meetings. Houston averaged 7.0 three point field goals and shot just 27.5 percent from that range.

In those two meetings four Clippers averaged 18+ points per game – J.J. Redick (24.0), Griffin (20.0), Jamal Crawford (18.5) and Chris Paul (18.5). Paul also dished out 15.0 assists per game.

L.A.’s success against Houston extends beyond this season, as the Clippers have won seven of their last eight games against the Rockets.

Harden rockets to 43 points in 3 quarters

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26

Ed Szczepanski/USA TODAY SportsThe Kings had no answer for James Harden on Tuesday, as he scored 43 points in three quarters.
James Harden only needed three quarters to put up one of the great performances in Rockets history Tuesday night against the Kings.

On fire in the first
Harden took over early in Sacramento -- with 22 points in the first quarter -- the most he's scored in any quarter of his career.

He punctuated his torrid quarter by scoring the team's final 18 points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Harden and Manu Ginobili of the Spurs are the only players this season to score 18 straight points for their respective teams.

When the smoke had cleared after the first 12 minutes, Harden had single-handedly outscored the Kings 22-17.

He also had seven field goals to the Kings' four and had either scored or assisted on 11 of the Rockets' 14 baskets.

What to do for an encore?
Harden finished with 43 points, eight assists and three steals. In the last 25 seasons, only two other Rockets players have reached those levels in a game.

Most recently, Hakeem Olajuwon did it in 1996 against the Timberwolves. A season before the Dream did it, Clyde Drexler reached those same levels against the Warriors.

Keeping company with LeBron
With a 104-77 lead after three quarters, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale gave Harden (along with the rest of the starters) the fourth quarter off.

That makes Harden the first player to score 43 points without playing a single second of the final quarter since March 18, 2011.

On that day, it was LeBron James who went for 43 in a blowout win for the Heat over the Hawks.

The common thread between Harden and LeBron? Each player needed exactly 31 minutes to do his damage.

Top stats to know: Rockets at Lakers

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19

Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports
Dwight Howard returns to Los Angeles tonight for the first time since leaving for Houston.

Dwight Howard will visit the Lakers for the first time since bolting for the Houston Rockets as a free agent.

Howard became the first player in NBA history to play in three straight All-Star games, each representing a different team (2011-12 Magic, 2012-13 Lakers, 2013-14 Rockets).

February has been kind to Howard so far. He is averaging 25.8 points on 65.7 percent shooting from the field in five games during the month.

In the first meeting on Nov. 7, Howard missed seven late free throws to allow the Lakers to keep it close before Steve Blake hit a wide-open 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining to lift L.A. to a 99-98 victory. Howard totaled 15 points and 14 rebounds but went just 5-16 from the line.

Howard has been better from the line lately. He’s shooting 70.8 percent (46 for 65) at the line over his last six games. In his previous 47 games this season, he had a 52.2 free throw percentage.

Streak watch: Harden vs Lakers
James Harden has scored 30 points in four straight games against the Lakers, averaging 33.5 PPG against them in that span.

Only three players have had a longer such streak against the Lakers in the last 30 seasons: Michael Jordan (1986-1988), Charles Barkley (1988-1990) and Scottie Pippen (1995-1996), each of whom had a five-game streak.

Marshall racking up the assists
Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall is taking advantage of his minutes in Steve Nash’s absence. In 16 starts this season, Marshall is averaging 12 points and 11.9 assists per game. Marshall’s assists are leading to 21.9 points per game. That ranked second-best in the NBA at the All-Star Break, trailing only Chris Paul (25.0).

Lottery bound
The Lakers are 18-35 and tied with the Sacramento Kings for the fourth-worst record in the NBA. Their .340 win percentage is on pace to be third-worst in a single season in franchise history and worst since 1959-60, their last season in Minneapolis.

Los Angeles is also in the midst of a seven-game home losing streak, their longest streak in a single season in franchise history.

At this point in the season, it seems worth asking what sort of chances the Lakers will have in this year’s draft lottery.

The Lakers have the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the league. Their opponents entered the All-Star Break with a combined .552 winning percentage.

According to Hollinger's Lottery Odds, L.A. currently has an 8.4 percent chance of winning the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the fourth-best chance in the league.

The Lakers have picked in the top 10 of the NBA Draft just five times dating back to the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, last doing so in 2005 (Andrew Bynum, 10th overall). They have been very successful with those picks, which include Hall of Famers Magic Johnson in 1979 and James Worthy in 1982.

Keys to victory: Rockets 111, Spurs 98

December, 25, 2013
What were the keys to the Houston Rockets' win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday?

Harden brilliant in the fourth
James Harden saved his best for last, scoring 16 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter. It was the second time this season that Harden scored 16 points in a fourth quarter. He also did so against the Spurs on Nov. 30.

Harden was 6-for-7 from the field in the fourth quarter, including 3-for-4 when guarded by Kawhi Leonard. He missed all four shots he took with Leonard guarding him in the first three quarters.

Harden ranks second in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, averaging 7.2 such points per game.

Lin and Howard handle their men
Rockets starters outscored Spurs starters 98-45, and one of the reasons for that was that Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were a combined 7-for-23 from the field.

Duncan was 4-for-11 when guarded by Dwight Howard (who also had his NBA-best fourth game this season with at least 20 rebounds). Parker was 2-for-8 when guarded by Jeremy Lin.

The 3-point shot
Chandler Parsons made 5 of 9 3-pointers, helping the Rockets shoot 12-for-24 from long range for the game. The Spurs were a meager 5-for-20. The Spurs have given up at least a dozen 3-pointers three times this season. In two of those instances, their opponents were the Rockets.

This marked only the second time in the past five seasons that an opposing team came into San Antonio and outscored the Spurs by more than 20 points from behind the arc. The other instance was the Trail Blazers last season.

As the shot chart below notes, the Spurs didn't shoot the ball well from anywhere. They shot 41 percent from the field, their lowest percentage in any game this month.

Paul George for MVP? The numbers say yes

December, 11, 2013
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesPaul George has established himself as an MVP candidate.
Is Paul George a legitimate contender for MVP?

After the Pacers' victory over the Heat on Tuesday, led by George -– who is averaging nearly 25 points for the 19-3 Pacers –- it seems appropriate now to make the argument for George over LeBron James and other top candidates.

Valuable asset
George is having the best season of his career and plays for the team with the best record in the NBA. With George on the court, the Pacers score 17 more points per 100 possessions and are 25 points better overall per 100 possessions than they are with George on the bench.

Let's compare George's value to the Pacers with the other top early-season candidates:

• The Miami Heat are actually 10 points per 100 possessions worse with LeBron on the court.

• The Oklahoma City Thunder are only two points per 100 possessions better with Kevin Durant on the court.

• The Los Angeles Clippers are three points per 100 possessions better with Chris Paul on the court.

• The Houston Rockets are three points per 100 possessions better with James Harden on the court.

George scores 25 percent of the Pacers' points and leads the NBA in defensive win shares for the second straight season. He is tied for second with Durant with 4.4 win shares overall, behind LeBron's 4.5. Win shares are an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player on offense and defense.

Coming through in the clutch
George has been dominant in the fourth quarter all season, which was evident when he scored 17 of his career-high 43 points against the Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter on Dec. 2.

George leads the NBA in fourth-quarter plus-minus and offensive rating (minimum 150 minutes played).

In the fourth quarter, the Pacers are 31 points better per 100 possessions with George on the court, including 20 points better per 100 possessions on the offensive end.

The NBA MVP award has been given to the player on a team that finished with the best record 58 percent of the time since 1990 and in four of the past five seasons. If George continues to lead the Pacers to a No. 1 seed, he could become the first Pacers player to win the NBA MVP award.

How They Got Here: Seven All-Star Newbies

January, 31, 2013

David Dow/NBAE/Getty ImagesKyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday will join forces in their first All-Star games
A look at the seven players selected to their first All-Star team this season:

James Harden becomes the first Houston Rockets All-Star since Yao Ming in 2011. Harden ranks fifth in the NBA, averaging a career-high 25.9 points this season. His scoring has increased by 9.1 points per game from last season, the highest increase among all players from last season to this season.

The NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year award winner has been one of the best pick and roll ball handlers this season. Among the 107 players with at least 50 such plays, Harden ranks second in the NBA, averaging 1.03 points per play.

After playing just five games during an injury-plagued 2011-12 season, Brook Lopez makes his first All-Star team in his fifth NBA season. Lopez averages an NBA-high 18.6 points among centers this season.

According to the Hollinger PER (Player Efficiency Rating) rankings, Lopez ranks fourth in the NBA with a mark of 25.4. Only LeBron James (30.3), Kevin Durant (29.1) and Chris Paul (26.1) have recorded a higher PER this season.

In his second NBA season, Kyrie Irving becomes the first Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star since LeBron James in 2010. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Irving will be the sixth-youngest player in NBA history to play in an All-Star Game at 20 years and 331 days old on February 17.

After winning Rookie of the Year last season, Irving has blossomed into one of the best guards in the NBA this season. He ranks fourth among point guards with a 22.5 PER.

Jrue Holiday becomes the second member of the Philadelphia 76ers in as many seasons to earn his first All-Star selection (Andre Iguodala, 2012). Holiday is averaging career highs in points (19.4), assists (8.9), field goal percentage (46.1) and rebounds (4.1). He and Russell Westbrook are the only two players averaging at least 19 points and eight assists this season.

Holiday has assisted 40 percent of his teammates’ field goals when he’s been on the court this season. That assist percentage ranks fifth in the NBA.

Paul George leads the Indiana Pacers in scoring, averaging a career-high 17.4 points this season. Despite his emergence on offense, George has made his biggest impact on defense. George ranks second in the NBA with 3.5 defensive win shares according to Basketball-Reference. Defensive win shares estimates the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense.

Joakim Noah is one of two Chicago Bulls selected as All-Star reserves (Luol Deng). Noah is averaging career highs in points (12.1), rebounds (11.3), and assists (4.2), which leads all centers. Noah has recorded at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in 11 games this season. Only LeBron James has recorded more such games with 13.

Noah has anchored a Bulls defense which ranks third in defensive efficiency, allowing just 97.5 points per 100 possessions this season. He leads the NBA in defensive win shares with 3.7 and ranks eighth in blocks with 2.1 per game.

In his 12th NBA season, Tyson Chandler was finally selected to his first All-Star team. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is averaging a career-high 11.9 points and 10.6 rebounds this season. Chandler leads the New York Knicks with 17 double-double and is one of just nine players averaging at least 10 points and 10 rebounds this season.

Chandler leads the NBA with a 70.6 true shooting percentage this season. True shooting percentage measures a player’s shooting efficiency taking into account two-point field goals, three-point field goals and free throws, a category Chandler has led in each of the previous two seasons.

Lin has smaller role, production in Houston

December, 17, 2012

Dan Lippitt/NBAE/Getty Images
Jeremy Lin returns to Madison Square Garden for the first time since leaving the Knicks.
One of the biggest sports stories last year was Jeremy Lin’s run with the New York Knicks. On Monday, Lin returns to Madison Square Garden as a member of the Houston Rockets.

The two teams played earlier this season in Houston where the Rockets blew out the Knicks, 131-103. Lin scored 13 points in that game on 6-for-12 shooting with seven rebounds and three assists.

His numbers this season are a far cry from what he did as a starter with the Knicks, but a lot of that can be attributed to the Rockets’ style of play and Lin’s usage.

Last season, Lin flourished in the pick-and-roll. His role has changed with the Rockets -- James Harden has the ball most of the time, leaving Lin in more spot-up situations.

No player has seen his role on offense diminish more than Lin has. His usage percentage (percentage of team plays used by the player while he’s on the floor) has gone from more than 27 percent as a starter with the Knicks to less than 19 percent with the Rockets -- that’s by far the largest drop in the NBA (among 121 players to start a third of their team’s games the past two seasons).

Lin’s role in the offense also shifts based on the personnel on the court. His usage percentage is 17.0 with James Harden on the court and 27.5 when Harden’s on the bench. Lin is averaging 14.3 points per 48 minutes with Harden on the floor and 26.3 points per 48 minutes with Harden on the bench.

Houston’s lineup turnover this season has resulted in a more up-tempo style of play. Last season the Rockets were 11th in pace (94.3 possessions per 48 minutes) -- this season they lead the league with 99.1.

It’s worth noting that with Lin as a starter the Knicks averaged 97.4 possessions per 48 minutes, which was second in the NBA in that span.

Jeremy Lin’s Top Moments
February 10, 2012

38 Points, 7 Assists in 92-85 win vs Lakers
In his third career start, Lin torched the Lakers for a career-high 38 points, making 13 of 23 shots from the field.

February 14, 2012
27 Points, 11 Assists, game-winning 3-pointer in 90-87 win vs Raptors
Probably his most memorable moment last season was a game-winning 3-pointer with less than a second left on Valentine’s Day to give the Knicks a win over the Raptors, their sixth consecutive victory.

February 19, 2012
28 Points, 14 Assists in 104-97 win vs Mavericks
Lin had a career-high 14 assists to go with 28 points in one of his most complete games as a pro as the Knicks beat the Mavericks.

December 10, 2012
38 Points, 7 Assists in OT loss to Spurs
In easily his best game as a Rocket, Lin took more of a scoring role with Harden sidelined by a sprained ankle, tying his career-high with 38 points. Despite the effort, the Rockets fell to the Spurs in overtime.

Kevin Martin is super efficient

November, 21, 2012
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Martin’s offensive efficiency this season is off the charts.
Kevin Martin has been the most efficient scorer in the NBA this season. Martin leads the league in points per play of the 137 players with at least 100 plays, according to Synergy Sports.

Another way to prove Martin has been the most efficient scorer in the NBA this season is his true shooting percentage, a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-pointers and free throws. In that regard, Martin ranks first in the league among players with at least 250 minutes.


He doesn’t have to create his own offense as often this season.

Martin is playing off the ball more this season alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, as compared to last season when he had the ball in his hands more often. His usage percentage -– an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he’s on the floor -- is 22.3, his lowest since 2005-06, his sophomore campaign with the Sacramento Kings.

Martin is second in the NBA this season in catch-and-shoot points (behind O.J. Mayo). He’s shooting 52.1 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers and has a 75 effective field-goal percentage on those shots.

Now that he isn’t the focal point of his team’s offense, Martin is able to let his offense come to him. As a result, his shooting numbers have blossomed in Oklahoma City.

In 2011-12, Martin shot just 34.9 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers, which ranked 134th of the 175 players with at least 100 catch-and-shoot jumpers. Catch-and-shoot accounted for 37.5 percent of his jump shots last season, while it accounts for 51.1 percent this season.

Need more evidence that Martin isn’t nearly as ball-dominant anymore? This season, 31.4 percent of his plays are spot-up, as compared to 19.3 percent last season. Isolation accounted for 22.4 percent of his plays last season, while that number is down to 17.9 percent this season.


The Thunder have been a much better team with Martin on the court. They're scoring 19.9 more points per 48 minutes than they are with Martin on the bench. They're shooting better, especially from beyond the arc, and getting to the free-throw line more than twice as often with Martin on the floor.

How impressive is Martin’s season thus far? Let’s put it in perspective:

• Only one player in NBA history has had a true shooting percentage higher than Martin’s current 70.2 percentage (Tyson Chandler – 70.8 last season).

• Martin currently averages 17.6 points per game with a 48.7 field-goal percentage and 53.6 3-point percentage. Nobody in NBA history has finished a season with those numbers. Detlef Schrempf (in 1994-95) is the only player to average at least 15 points per game with a 45 field-goal percentage and 50 3-point percentage.

• Thus far, Martin has a career high in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage and offensive rating this season.

If Martin continues on this pace of super offensive efficiency, the Thunder won’t regret trading Harden for him.

Statistical support for this story from

Lin struggling to create own shot

November, 16, 2012
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesJeremy Lin is scoreless on 14 isolation plays this season.
Did Jeremy Lin make a mistake by leaving the New York Knicks and signing with the Houston Rockets?

We're only seven games into the season and Lin is still adjusting to his new team, but thus far it looks statistically like he was better off with the Knicks.

Last season, Lin was one of the best isolation players in the league, according to Synergy Sports. He ranked third in the NBA in points per isolation play among the 91 players with at least 75 plays, just behind his new teammate James Harden.

The Knicks led the league in isolation plays and points last season. Their primary offense consisted of spreading the floor and letting Lin and others attack off the dribble.

But was Lin the right fit for the Knicks or were the Knicks the right fit for Lin?

There were two contrasting offseason theories:

• Lin's isolation prowess could help the Rockets, who ranked 20th in isolation points last season and 22th in isolation plays.

• Lin, who bounced around from team to team before finally finding a role with the Knicks, was only successful in New York because the Knicks relied so heavily on isolation plays and were able to spread the floor. He wouldn't be as successful in Houston with a more team-oriented offense that doesn't rely so much on isolation and doesn’t have as much talent to spread the floor.

The latter theory is proving true thus far.

Lin is shooting 0-for-8 with six turnovers and zero points on 14 isolation plays this season.

The issues? Turnovers and lack of aggressiveness.

Not only is he settling for outside jumpers more often -– he’s attempted 3-pointers on 29 percent of his isolation plays after that number was 15 percent last season -- but he hasn’t gotten to the free throw line on any of his isolation plays. Last season, Lin attempted free throws on 18 percent of his isolation plays, the fourth-highest rate in the league among the 91 players with at least 75 isolation plays.

Lin has turned the ball over on 43 percent of his isolation plays this season -– the highest percentage in the league -- after turning it over on just 6.5 percent of those plays last season.

The fact that Lin and Harden both ranked among the best isolation players in the league last season gave the Rockets hope, as it appeared the Rockets might have the best isolation backcourt in the NBA.

But that's not the case thus far. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

The Rockets are shooting just 28 percent on isolation plays this season, the fourth-lowest percentage in the NBA.

Not only is Lin struggling is isolation, but Harden is as well. Harden is shooting just 24 percent, the worst isolation field-goal percentage of the 19 players with at least 25 plays this season, although Harden has found other ways to score – he’s shooting 51 percent on non-isolation plays (Lin: 39 percent).

The Knicks and Thunder both had plenty of talent spread throughout the court, thus allowing Lin and Harden to excel in isolation without teams being able to collapse on one single player.

The Rockets are different. Lin and Harden are the clear focal points of their offense – they’ve combined for 74 percent of their isolation plays this season.

If Lin is going to become a more efficient offensive player, he’ll have to learn how to score in other ways. As of now, it appears that he still has a lot of room for improvement.

Did OKC make mistake by trading Harden?

November, 7, 2012
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireJames Harden is leading the NBA in scoring this season.
James Harden is making many people think the Oklahoma City Thunder made a bad decision by trading him - and rightfully so.

Harden, who is playing 10.3 more minutes per game this season compared to last, leads the league in scoring with 35.3 points per game.

But perhaps the trade will end up being a win-win for both the Houston Rockets and Thunder - at least for this season as Martin is in the last year of his contract. Through four games - admittedly, a very small sample size - Martin is averaging 19.3 points per game, a 2.5 point increase over what Harden put up last season in an OKC uniform.

Martin scored 15 points last night in just 22 minutes of action. He's making more than three 3-pointers per game while shooting nearly 62 percent from behind the arc. It's also noteworthy that Jeremy Lamb - the other key piece in the trade along with draft picks - has scored six points in just seven total minutes this season.

Among the 96 players that have logged at least 100 minutes on the court this season, Harden and Martin rank first and tied for seventh, respectively, in points per 48 minutes. Russell Westbrook is averaging 28.9 points per 48 minutes while Kevin Durant is averaging 25.7.

Harden has 106 points through three games, the second-most points through the first three team games of a season in Rockets franchise history (Moses Malone had 107 points through three games in 1981).

Perhaps the craziest part of Harden's start is that we should have seen it coming. Last year in Oklahoma City, Harden averaged nearly 35 points per 40 minutes when he was not sharing the floor with Durant. This season, Harden’s per game numbers are eerily similar to his per 40 minute averages with Durant off the floor last season.

Harden is the first player with at least 106 points, 19 rebounds and 19 assists in his team’s first three games of a season since Michael Jordan in 1989-90.

2012 Team USA: Better than Dream Team?

July, 12, 2012
US PresswireWould the current U.S. Olympic team have a chance against the Dream Team?
Kobe Bryant believes the 2012 U.S. Olympic team would beat the 1992 Olympic team. Is he correct?

According to AccuScore, which ran 10,000 computer simulations, the 1992 team would win 53.1 percent of the time and by an average margin of one point per game.

No one will ever know the true answer, but let's take a look at the Next Level analytical facts about the rosters at each point of their careers to help make the case either way.


Much has been made about the current team’s weak frontcourt. The 1992 team had four players who grabbed at least 15 percent of available rebounds in 1991-92 (Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson). The current team has three players at that rebound rate last season (Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love).

The 1992 team had two players (Ewing, Robinson) who blocked at least 5 percent of the shot attempts they faced in 1991-92. No 2012 player had a block percentage higher than 3.4 last season (Chandler).


Four current members had a true shooting percentage (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws) of at least 60 last season (Chandler, Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James). Chandler (70.8 in 2011-12) led the NBA each of the past two seasons. Only one of the 1992 members had a 60 true shooting percentage (Barkley), although three others fell just short of that threshold in 1991-92 (Malone, Robinson, John Stockton).


Five Dream Team members assisted on at least 25 percent of their teammates’ field goals in 1991-92 (Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Stockton), plus Magic Johnson had a 49.3 assist percentage in his most recent NBA season (1990-91). LeBron, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams had a 25 assist percentage or better last season, but none were as high as Stockton (53.7), who was in the midst of leading the league in assist percentage for 10 straight seasons.


The 1992 team was about 2½ years older on average (28.8-26.2). Other than Bird and Magic, every Dream Team member was 30 years old or younger. Every member of the current team is 29 or younger, other than Kobe, who is 33.

But the NBA experience level is about the same. The 1992 team had, on average, 7.3 years of experience per player. This year’s team has 7.1.

As far as NBA titles, give the edge to the 1992 team. Its players had a combined 12 championships as they entered the Olympics -- five by Magic, three by Bird and two each from Jordan and Pippen.

The 2012 version has seven championships among them, carried by Kobe’s five. LeBron and Chandler each have one. The current team has members of each of the past four NBA champions, while the 1992 team had members of the then-past two champions.


Using average win shares per 48 minutes in their previous NBA seasons, (including Magic’s 1990-91 season and not including Christian Laettner), the 1992 squad’s average is higher by 9 percent (.215-.198). Prefer player efficiency rating to win shares? The Dream Team’s PER was 3 percent higher (23.8-23.0).


Other than Laettner, all 11 Dream Team members are Hall of Famers. And only two could be considered in the twilight of their careers. Bird had just finished his last NBA season, while Magic had retired the previous year, although he made a brief comeback in 1995-96. As for this edition, one could make the case that all but the 33-year-old Kobe on the roster could appear on another Olympic team again.

The 2012 team gets under way with an exhibition game Thursday against the Dominican Republic on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET. Only time will tell whether this team is the modern-day Dream Team.

Aggressive LeBron, Heat on brink of title

June, 21, 2012

Garrett Ellwood/Getty ImagesLeBron James gets into the paint again for the Heat in the NBA Finals.
The Miami Heat host the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of NBA Finals tonight (9 ET on ABC).

Numbers never lie, right? Entering this year, 30 teams had trailed 3-1 in the NBA Finals and not a single team was able overcome that deficit and win a title. In fact, under the current 2-3-2 format (since 1985) none of the 13 teams facing a 3-1 hole have even forced a decisive Game 7.

After winning Game 1, the Thunder have dropped three straight games for just their second three-game losing streak of the season. They haven’t lost four straight games in more than three years, since February of 2009.

Oklahoma City has failed to reach 100 points in their last three games. They had just one such streak during the regular season, when they went five games in a row from April 1-8 without reaching the century mark. When the Thunder does reach 100 points this postseason, they’re 10-1.

One issue has been their poor distance shooting. In the Conference Finals against the Spurs, the Thunder averaged 41.3 points per game from 15+ feet while shooting nearly 45 percent. Against the Heat in the Finals, they are scoring nine points fewer per game and shooting under 38 percent.

The disappearance of James Harden has also hurt the Thunder. Harden had eight points in Game 4, his third game in single digits this series. Harden didn’t have a single-digit scoring game in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Harden has struggled as the pick & roll ball handler, scoring just four total points on those plays during the Finals, after averaging better than five points per game in the first three playoff rounds. Only 13 percent of his plays have been of the pick-and-roll variety in the Finals, compared to 41 percent in the first three rounds.

Two words: LeBron James. After a miserable Finals last year, James has emerged as the premier playoff performer this postseason.

James has recorded 671 points this postseason. He is 29 points away from becoming just the fifth player in NBA history to record at least 700 points in a single postseason.

One reason for his success is that he has been more aggressive attacking the basket.

He went 8-for-11 for 16 points inside the paint in Game 4. He’s recorded at least 16 points inside the paint in each of the last six games, his longest such streak in his postseason career (since 2006).

James has also been a primetime player under pressure, scoring 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting in “clutch time” situations (last five minutes of fourth quarter and overtime, score within five points) in the 2012 NBA Finals. In the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, James failed to score or even draw a foul in clutch time.

The Heat have trailed in three different series this postseason. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team entering this postseason has won a title in NBA history after trailing in three different series in a single postseason.

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Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories.

1. ANOTHER GAME 7: The New Jersey Devils stayed alive and forced a Game 7 with their 3-2 OT win against the Florida Panthers. Travis Zajac scored the game-winning goal, his third goal of the series. He only had two goals in the regular season. This is already the third playoff series that has gone to seven games, all in the Eastern Conference. The first of those Game 7s will be played Wednesday as the Boston Bruins host the Washington Capitals, with the Bruins looking to win their sixth straight game when facing elimination.

2. YU GOT IT: Yu Darvish pitched 8 1/3 IP and struck out 10 New York Yankees batters in a 2-0 Texas Rangers win. FROM ELIAS: Since divisional play began in 1969, only two other pitchers have hurled at least eight shutout innings with 10-or-more strikeouts in their first career start against the Yankees: Baltimore’s Bob Milacki on September 28, 1988 and Cleveland’s Bartolo Colon on September 21, 1998. Darvish is also the second Japanese-born starting pitcher to start 3-0 in his MLB career.

3. CHELSEA MOVES ON: Chelsea advanced to the UEFA Champions League Final (3-2 on aggregate) over defending champion Barcelona. Barcelona completed almost 1,200 more passes than Chelsea and took 34 more shots. Chelsea only put four shots on goal in the two games, but three of them went in. They will face the winner of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. That semifinal takes place at 2:45 ET and the final takes place on May 19.

4. ALL THAT JAZZ: The Utah Jazz beat the Phoenix Suns to clinch the final playoff spot. It will be the Jazz’s 1st playoff appearance since the 2009-10 season. All 16 playoff spots have been clinched. Other clinchings on Tuesday included the Chicago Bulls winning the East for the second straight season, and the Los Angeles Lakers winning the Pacific division. It is the 32nd division title for the Lakers, the most of any team.

Metta World Peace
World Peace
5. MISSING METTA: Lakers forward Metta World Peace was suspended seven games (including playoffs) for hitting James Harden in the head with an elbow. It is the second time that World Peace has been suspended as a Laker. He was suspended for one game after smacking J.J. Barea in the face during the playoffs last season. World Peace was averaging 14.1 PPG on 47.3 FG pct in April (both season-highs) after averaging just 6.1 PPG from December to March.