A Fresh Shave for Houston, Looking back at James Harden's Legacy as a Rocket
Updated: Jan 26
Despite the sour ending to an eight year tenure with the Houston Rockets, James Harden's contribution to the team will go down in history.
The three team blockbuster trade on January 14th marked the end of an era in Houston Basketball. After eight great seasons, James Harden will no longer be a Rocket, signaling the end of a historic offensive reign that dominated the league for years.
During the eight year span of 2012-2020, the Houston Rockets' offensive scheme followed two basic principles: a heliocentric philosophy in which a single player handles the majority of their team's offensive responsibilities and a small ball system that prioritized three pointers and layups. This style of play was initially met with skepticism but eventually won fans and critics over for its efficiency and effectiveness.
The Houston Rockets ranked above league average in Offensive Rating (points produced per 100 possessions) for the entirety of the past eight seasons and the catalyst for this success was James Harden. His impact on the teams offense was phenomenal and it showed on the stat sheet.
His teammates shot quality (the likelihood that a “field goal attempt” turns out to be a “field goal made”) increased by an average of 2.2% when James Harden was on the floor. His ability to create pressure and draw multiple defenders opened up the floor for his teammates and big men like Clint Capela were the biggest beneficiaries of Harden's presence.
In addition to his elite playmaking, the 2017-2018 MVP was an elite scorer. It felt like an impossible task to guard Harden as he was able to score from virtually any point on the floor. This elite scoring ability led to a historic run in which James Harden scored at least 30 points or more for 32 games straight, a feat done by only one other player in NBA history, Wilt Chamberlain.
In addition to this, James Harden also claimed multiple other historic achievements such as being the first player to score over 2000 points and assist on over 2000 points in a single season. He's also the first player to record a 60 point triple double. The single addition of James Harden in the 2012/2013 NBA season transformed the Houston Rockets from a middling .500 team to an elite contender.
Despite his contributions to the Houston Rockets, James Harden was far from a perfect player. The Rockets fell short in the playoffs every season and much of the blame could justifiably be put on James Harden. His playstyle never translated to the postseason and he's come up short multiple times to the point where he's been labeled a playoff choker. He's not a perfect player by any means and the start of the 2020-2021 NBA season is a reflection of that. With that being said, his impact to the team was historic and in the distant future we'll look back and appreciate the contributions he made to the Houston Rockets and the rest of the NBA.