The Rockets dropped another game on Monday to the newly hot Boston Celtics. The Rockets have now dropped their last 4 games after winning 3 straight. For a team that made it so deep into the playoffs last year, we’re all wondering, what the hell happened?
The overarching reason for their downfall is the following: James Harden.
Harden had the hot hand last year, as he was the very close runner up to last year’s MVP. Harden believed he deserved the award, but the ever finessing Curry is proving this year why he won it, while Harden is only strengthening the voters case for why he didn’t deserve it.
Harden was notorious last year for taking the ball and not letting go until the ball was in the net. Similar to how we view Kobe, Harden attempted an average 18.1 shots per game, almost double the next highest players shots per game. However, the difference between last year and this year is Harden’s FGP ( Field goal percentage ).
Last year, Harden was averaging over 27 points per game and shooting at 44%. This year, Harden is barely shooting over 37% and is still averaging about 27 points per game. So whats the problem? The problem is that in order to amount the same amount of points, with a lower FGP, you must be taking more shots. Thats what he’s doing.
Harden is the undisputed leader of this Rockets team, but that doesn’t entitle him to shoot the ball whenever he pleases. Harden this year is averaging 20 shots per game, just about the same amount as Lebron. The difference is, Lebron shoots at a 13% higher FGP than Harden. Whether its because Harden is trying to prove himself, or he is playing with a chip on his shoulder from last year, he needs to play the game as a team, like basketball was intended.
Harden isn’t necessarily surrounded by all stars, but when you’re in the NBA, you’re surrounded by very skilled athletes. The Rockets consistently struggle to score 100 points, and in todays league, its hard to win doing that. Im suggesting that if Harden plays a bigger fast break, and pick and roll schemed position, he would not only help spread the ball on the floor, but he would be getting better and higher percentage shots. This would also allow the big man, Dwight Howard, to find lanes when the defense crashes on Harden, which would improve this teams efficiency. Usually a team changes their offensive gameplay depending on which team they are playing, but the rockets cant expect to win games with their perimeter shooting mentality. To me the blame isn’t completely on Harden because its the coaches responsibility to set up the game plan, but Harden needs to find out what works and what doesn’t work, and work off that.
For now, Harden needs to stop forcing shots and just let his slump take its course. Slumps are inevitable, and in his case, is affecting the whole team. The Rockets tumultuous downfall doesn’t completely fall on the shoulders of Harden, but he is the biggest culprit. Now, if the defense wanted to step their game up and stop forcing the offense to make up for the defenses bad play, maybe Harden and the offense wouldn’t be forcing so many shots.
As of now, the Rockets need to figure out a gameplay that keeps Harden involved, but develops more efficient scoring.