Houston Rockets Preseason Roster Review: Shooting Guard

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Apr 20, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard

James Harden

(13) reacts after a play during the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Part 4 of the 5 part series.  We’ve already looked at the front court, now we’ll look at the back-court.  Shooting guards, known also as the 2, is the position that probably has the least amount of questions to be answered in camp but there are a few things to be sorted out among the reserves.

Other Positions

Part 1 – Centers

Part 2 – Power Forwards

Part 3 – Small Forwards

Part 5 – Point Guards

Shooting Guards (2)

James Harden 6’5”, 220, 25 years old

James Harden, in a different era, might already have 1 or 2 MVP Trophies on his mantle, had the team finished a little higher in the standings and if he didn’t have Kevin Durant and LeBron James playing at the same time. If you look at the numbers that Derrick Rose and Dirk Nowitzki put up in their MVP years, Harden’s last 2 seasons compare very similarly to them.

Apr 25, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots against the Portland Trail Blazers during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Harden has scored 25.4 and 25.9 per game in the past 2 seasons consecutively. His assist numbers for a shooting guard have been a very strong 5.8 and 6.1 per game in the same seasons. Harden may not be the fastest in the NBA or the quickest but whatever he does on the offensive end works. He utilizes his step-back jumper which has gotten more and more deadly because the defender is on his heels anticipating the penetration. Or he can go to his league best euro step often on a fast break that he pulls out several times a game going to the hole.

Harden uses a number of moves to gain a step on a defender and beats guys to the bucket almost constantly. His slightly thick build and long arms help him finish very efficiently at the rim. When he doesn’t finish at the rim, he’s very often fouled and goes to the line. Last season he was #2 in the league at getting to the line, where he’s also one of the best free throw shooters in the game at 86.6 percent.

All that adds up to a guy that can put up 15 to 20 on an off night and 30+ when he’s really clicking. At this point everyone in the NBA knows Harden is one of the 3 or 4 best offensive players in the game today.

Where Harden needs work, clearly is on the defensive end. It’s become popular to pile on that topic but some, myself included, have made the case that his defense is not as bad as his reputation has become, it’s just wildly inconsistent. He shows flashes of what he’s capable of but then will lazily loose his man for an easy basket later in the same game.

The Rockets need him to give a more consistent effort and that’s all they really need from him on defense.  As Harden matures and as the chase for a championship becomes a more serious goal for him and Dwight Howard, it’s very possible we will start to se that.

We’ll know more this season, their second together just how serious Harden and Howard are going to take this challenge. A team with 2 top 10 NBA players, which honestly regardless of any bloggers opinion is a fact at this point, should certainly go deeper into the playoffs and be in the conversation of a team that can win it, with the right complimentary players.

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