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The more on Harden, the better the Rockets are

By: Marzell Tabourne

If you're a team that has James Harden, you want the ball in his hands as much as possible. Making him the point guard for an offense that will have as many possessions as a Mike D'Antoni system will create is exactly what will lead them to great success.

If you’re a team that has James Harden, you want the ball in his hands as much as possible. Making him the point guard for an offense that will have as many possessions as a Mike D’Antoni system will create is exactly what will lead them to great success.

Kevin McHale ended his four-year run with the Houston Rockets in pretty mediocre fashion. The team was exactly at .500 last season and lost 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs to the elite, record-setting Golden State Warrors. It was a terrible disappointment for a team with offensive mastermind James Harden, who averaged his career-high in points per game at 29.0 the previous season.

But not only did they Rockets have an elite scorer, they had a more talented roster compared to the two previous years with the dynamic Ty Lawson and scrappy lock-down defender Patrick Beverly alternating at point guard. They also had low post presence and All-Star center Dwight Howard locking down the paint and an explosive powerforward Josh Smith. Clint Capela, Terrance Jones, Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, Michael Beasley; the Rockets not only had stars in the starting lineup, but great role players and serves too.

While the Warriors playoff wins over the Rockets two years in a show serve as a testimony to how great Golden State is, it also reflects how ill-equipped the Houston Rockets were to compete with championship caliber teams.

Harden is the key to that turnaround. Some might be willing to give up on him, but the team has not seen a superstar as offensively talented as Tracy McGrady back over a decade ago. Despite Harden’s obvious defensive flaws, his offensive efficiency is nothing short of remarkable. He only one can score at an incredible high rate, but he dishes the ball out to the open man equally as well. He averaged 7.5 assists per game last year.

Houston needed to better build around Harden and in the offseason Rockets general manager Darryl Morey made moves to to that. First, he choose to replace McHale as the team’s coach with Mike D’Antoni, the man responsible for the “second seconds or less” offense that propelled back-to-back MVP seasons for point guard Steve Nash.

The Rockets also moved away from Howard, Smith, Lawson, Jones and Beasley in various ways and brought in players from New Orleans such as Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, and former Wizards big man Nene.

More in going to be on Harden’s shoulders, but he is also a star who can handle that. He has proven he’s both a gifted scorer and passer, which D’Antoni’s accelerated offense will thrive upon. While the team is just 5-3, they are playing some excellent basketball early in this season. Harden kicking out to stretch-forward Ryan Anderson has been great and is preventing defenses from completely collapsing inside. Capela doesn’t necessarily create his own offense, but in situations where Harden penetrates into the paint, the opposing big man is forced to help and it creates a clearing for Capela to take advantage of his extreme athleticism on an alley-oop. Gordon is an agile cutter who moved well and makes his own shot.

Harden’s prowess of scoring is never underestimated by teams and running the offense through him as the point guard gets his teammates in a better position for shots. With his new arsenal of scoring options, his distributing will be a huge plus for the Rockets.

In a victory over the Spurs in San Antonio, Harden led the team with a triple-double, scoring 24 points with 15 assists and 10 rebounds. He’s already averaging 30 points and 13 assists. At this rate, the Rockets have potential to be a lethal playoff contender.

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