11-29-2012, 07:48 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
[ESPN] Hollinger: Evaluating the James Harden Deal
Hollinger wrote a good article on about the James Harden deal, read this, Lin is also mentioned and also how they work together.
You might describe James Harden's season in Dennis Green terms: He was who we thought he was.
Through 14 games with his new squad in Houston, Harden has predictably been forced to take more shots than he did in Oklahoma City and converted with less efficiency as a result. But the upshot of that trade-off is that Harden still looks to be the All-Star caliber guard he showed himself to be as a sixth man with the Thunder: His 21.89 PER is nearly a perfect match for the 21.13 he registered in OKC.
If he keeps that up, it pretty much cements him as utterly deserving of a max contract; very few wing players ring up numbers anywhere close to what Harden has done. His PER ranks him second only to Kobe Bryant among shooting guards, and fifth overall among wing players -- behind only Bryant and the three luminary small forwards, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
While one presumes that Dwyane Wade probably will pass Harden at some point too, this at worst leaves him as the sixth-best wing player in the league. The other five, you'll notice, all get the max.
So let's set that debate aside, because it's not much of a debate anymore, and then look at a few other questions as Harden's Rockets head to Oklahoma City tonight for his first visit since his surprising preseason trade to Houston:
Is Harden killing Linsanity? James Harden is a pick-and-roll guard. Jeremy Lin is a pick-and-roll guard. You can only run pick-and-roll with one of them at any given time, and Harden is better at it than Lin. Soooo ... what exactly does that leave Lin doing?
"Spotting up" seems to be the answer, but Lin isn't any good at this, shooting only 25.6 percent on 3s this season and 29.4 percent for his career. In fact, he has been even worse inside the arc, making only 6-of-28 on 2s from beyond 10 feet. He shot respectably at this range in New York a year ago (44-of-98), so this may just be a short-term thing, but regardless opponents will happily concede long 2s to Lin if it lets them smother Harden's drives. He needs to punish them with 3s.
There's a lot going on here -- it's a small sample of games, Lin is coming off a knee injury and the Rockets are still figuring out how to incorporate the talents of all their new players.
But the cruel truth, according to NBA.com's stats tool, is that Harden is a lot better when Lin isn't playing next to him. Harden shoots 48.9 percent with Lin on the bench and only 43.9 percent with him in the game; he also draws dramatically more fouls and has a better plus-minus.
As for Lin? Amazingly, the Rockets have hardly tried letting him run the show while Harden sits. He has played only 48 minutes without Harden this season, and while his numbers in that stint haven't been good, we're looking at a fairly minuscule sample size.
An obvious solution for Houston would be to stagger the minutes of both players so that Lin and Harden each get a solid 10-minute run without the other. Thus far, they've averaged about half of that -- in 14 games, they have only 164 minutes of solo time between them.
The theoretical maximum, if the Rockets had perfectly timed the rest periods for each, is 336, which means Houston is giving their two guards solo time only about half as often as it could. Obviously there are some practical limitations to this, but it seems Houston could take it further.
In the meantime, the two have to coexist better as well. Despite their talents, the Harden-Lin pairing has been one of the Rockets' worst two-man units (just a +7, while playing nearly two-thirds of the minutes of a team that is +31 on the season). Working out the kinks with two guards who need the ball and aren't great spot-up guys (especially Lin) was never going to be easy, especially without a training camp. We're seeing the growing pains as we go.
I think this will become a question about who the Rockets prefer the most, Harden or Lin? The answer is obvious.