What Makes Harden Such A Good Offensive Player

James Harden continues to improve with each season. He isn’t the most flashiest player and his big beard is a great representation of the distant loner figure he sometimes comes across as. He’s not the tallest player, or the most in shape and yet he is undeniably effective offensively. 

Harden has been one of the most prolific offensive players in the last decade. He has finished in the top two for NBA points leaders in each of the last five seasons, finishing as top point scorer in the last two seasons. He currently tops the points scoring list and would be a good bet to finish the season as the leader.

While Harden has pushed himself personally, he hasn’t been fortunate enough to go all the way to an NBA Finals. This season he teams up with former Thunder teammate and triple-double-phenomenon Russell Westbrook. Together, they might take the Rockets to new heights this season. Both Westbrook and Harden are into their 30s and the next few seasons may be their last chance to reward their stellar careers with NBA championship rings.

This season, Harden continues to dominate and has averaged around 40 points per game. If he can continue this through to the postseason, the Rockets could be in with a shout in a strong Western Conference. So what makes Harden such a good offensive player?

Three point ability

Harden is a danger across the court, but his strength is from three. He has been a consistent contender to Steph Curry’s title of three-point king. Together, they have changed the way that the NBA is played, and have made the three-point way more influential in team tactics.

Harden currently tops the league for three-pointers made. With Curry out injured for most of the season, Harden will surely top the league come April. Harden’s handling, shooting and passing ability is some of the best in the league. He is great at getting to the line and keeping defenders guessing. 

Harden’s ability to shift position on a dime and drop three points from deep mean that he is incredibly difficult to defend against. His passing ability ensures that teams can’t just focus on him, especially with Westbrook on the outside.

While Harden has a reputation as a ball-hogger, he can justify it with the points he puts up, game after game. Having a player who is such a danger from three opens up the entire offense. Through Curry, the Warriors used this to establish their dynasty. For the Rockets, they need to figure out a way to be lethal through other channels. Westbrook might be the solution to that problem.

Decision making speed

Harden is sometimes likened to a garden gnome due to his long beard and short stocky physique. The truth is that he is anything but that. He’s not the fastest player but he can beat players in short bursts to the line. He might look stocky, but he hardly ever sits out through injury. At 30, he has never struggled with any major injury that some of the taller players have.

Aside from speed and agility, his ball handling allows him to fool defenders and put them off balance. Next time you watch him head towards the three point area, watch how he handles the ball. The defender won’t know whether he’s about to drive, pass or shoot for three. 

What makes Harden’s offensive talents even more pronounced is his ability to make good decisions in an instant. While he has the defender on his toes, he’ll know whether to pass, drive or shoot. His ability to exploit a defender’s positioning, and keep them guessing, makes the defender more susceptible to commit a foul. Being fouled is one of the most talked about aspects of Harden’s game.

Drawing fouls

James Harden is a great player to have on your team and an infuriating player to play against. The main reason for this is the amount of free throws and personal fouls that Harden gets every game. 

Throughout his career, Harden has continued to receive more free throws and personal fouls every season. Last season, he averaged 9.7 free throws and 3.1 personal fouls per game. This season, he is averaging 11.3 free throws and 3.4 personal fouls per game. He has topped the NBA in free throws attempted in six of the last seven seasons. One thing is for sure, Harden knows how to draw a foul.

As a fan or player on the opposing side, Harden’s flops might be the most infuriating thing to experience. For the Rockets fans and teammates, a foul is a foul, and points on the board are points on the board. This is perhaps the crux of what makes Harden such a good offensive player. He knows how to draw a foul from an opponent through his quick decision making, lethal shooting and accurate passing. 

No other player in the league has learnt to bewilder defenders in this way. Make no mistake, drawing a foul is not cheating. Forcing the defender into a mistake while you land a lay-up requires skill and intelligence. It gets under the skin of opponents and their fans while prompting your own fans to cry out, “And 1!”.