Any time someone is able to produce at an elite level, they’ll create attention. James Harden is beyond elite at creating his own shot.
Only 14 percent of his three-pointers have been assisted, per Cleaning the Glass. Including his two-pointers, only 46 of his 331 buckets have come from assists. He is the centerpiece of their offense and when he is hot, it’s an impossible task to slow him down.
As statistician Dean Oliver explains here: Harden has 139 unassisted three-pointers. The No. 2 overall three-point shooter is Stephen Curry, who has hit 138 total three-pointers.
Andre Snellings provided more context even before the Rockets played the Warriors (via ESPN):
“While it is impressive that Harden is making almost 39 percent of his 11.9 3-point attempts per game, the most amazing aspect is that Harden is assisted on only 13.2 percent of those 3-point attempts, according to Basketball Reference. Compare Harden and his 4.6 3-point makes per game to Damian Lillard’s 3.1 makes per game on 39 percent 3-point shooting, but with 51.7 percent of them assisted, or even Curry’s 4.9 3s on 45 percent shooting, with 66.9 percent of them assisted, and it becomes clear that Harden’s 3-point shooting has been uniquely valuable this season, even among the other greats.”
According to Positive Residual, nine of the 13 buckets Harden scored against Golden State were unassisted. This was not an unusual evening for the Houston superstar.
For context, his teammate Clint Capela has averaged 24.8 passes per game to Harden. But that’s led to just 0.4 assists per game from the big man to the guard. The defending MVP is able to create his own offense at a prolific rate, rivaled by no one in the league. The big man tosses him the rock then Harden goes one-on-one.
When he matches up one-on-one against his defender, the guard has averaged 1.11 points per possession. That’s the most effective rate out of any player who has finished more than 60 possessions on this play type, per Synergy Sports.
He has averaged 16.4 points per game in isolation, which is astronomically higher than anyone else in the NBA. The next three best players are Chris Paul (5.0), Kawhi Leonard (4.8) and Kevin Durant (4.6) thus far. But if you combine all three, Harden has still managed to outscore the three by 2.0 point per game.
Rather than spot-up situations, Harden is more often tasked with shooting off the dribble. Harden is currently averaging 1.09 points per possession on these opportunities, which ranks Top 5 (minimum: 90 possessions) in the NBA.
In fact, he has connected on a league-high 128 three-pointers after taking at least three dribbles. For comparison, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker ranks right behind the guard with 66 connections. Harden has nearly doubled the person who ranks just one spot behind him in this category.
Harden is simply lethal when he is given a chance to dribble in space, create a comfortable look and get the basket in the bucket.