While James Harden continues to put up gaudy offensive numbers with the Rockets, his high usage rate could hurt other aspects of his game.
Houston might have endured a disappointing and demoralizing 2015–16 season that opened with a quick coaching change and ended with a quick postseason exit, but James Harden made sure he got his. Did he ever. The 27-year-old Harden (29 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 7.5 APG) posted career-highs in minutes, shots, usage rate, points, rebounds, assists and free throw attempts, pushing his all-around production to historic levels and raising the age-old “How much is too much?” question that often dogs one-man offenses. There were obvious costs to Harden’s insane workload: his defensive numbers fell dramatically, Houston’s attack was too predictable and stood no chance against Golden State’s defense in the playoffs, and neglected center Dwight Howard bounced out of town as soon as possible in free agency. Still, his elite one-on-one feel, his league-leading ability to get to the line, his reliable three-point range and his strong finishing ability make him able to carry an efficient offense in a way matched by only the league’s brightest stars. So it came as no great surprise, then, when the Rockets spent this summer building out an offensive-minded roster in his image before inking him to a lucrative renegotiated extension that will carry him through July 2019 at minimum. He’s the whole show, and a damn good one despite his faults. (Last year: No. 5)
+ Since 1970, only two players have matched his 2015–16 production (29 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 7.5 APG) in all three categories: LeBron James (2008, 2010) and Michael Jordan (1989)
+ Career-high 837 free throw attempts were the most by a guard since Michael Jordan attempted 860 in 1988
– He slipped from the 79th percentile in overall defense in 2014–15 to the 18th percentile last season (per Synergy Sports)
– Heavy miles: In the four seasons since his 2012 arrival in Houston, he ranks first in total minutes played, second in field goal attempts and eighth in usage rate league-wide