NBA Combine Media Availability Interviews May 29, 2009
[Read Full Article] Situational Statistics: This Year's Shooting Guard Crop April 27, 2009 ēJames Hardenís situational statistics should ease many of the concerns teams have about his game. It appears that he's one of those players who "finds a way to get by" despite his shortcomings.
Very efficient, while maintaining fairly high usage rates, Harden made 47% of his shots in logged possessions Ėan excellent percentage for a two. None of the 5 players who used as many possessions as Harden (Marcus Thornton, Jermaine Taylor, Jodie Meeks, Jerel McNeal, Dar Tucker) were as efficient as he was from the field. Out of those players, only Meeks' PPP was higher than Hardenís, thanks to how many 3's he made, while Thornton matched him at 1 PPP.
A lot of Hardenís efficiency comes from an area that most probably wouldnít expect it to. In spite of his perceived athletic limitations, Harden was a terrific finisher around the basket this season. Not only did he get to the rim more than any other player on our list (8.7 Pos/G), he ranked in first comfortably at 1.25 PPP. Considering the questions surrounding his ability to translate his finishing ability to the NBA, these numbers can only help his cause. Ironically, they donít seem to offer much support for one of his bigger perceived strengths.
Harden's biggest shortcoming ended up being in the perimeter shooting department. He was terrific on the very few catch and shoot opportunities he received with his feet set (2.4 Pos/G), but really struggled when being contested (.85 PPP) or shooting off the dribble (.73 PPP). In fact, the 27% he shot from the field off the dribble is the lowest of any of the nineteen players in our sample. Fortunately for Harden, this is clearly a part of his game he can work on, but he'll have to put in the appropriate time in the gym. In terms of things a team can count on him to do well in the short-run, his ability to score with space deserves consideration at the top of that list.
Harden's intelligence and excellent skill-level really shine through in his ability to score in transition--which was an important part of his game in college. He ranks behind only Wayne Ellington (who obviously had a big advantage playing under Roy Williams' up-tempo system with Ty Lawson) in this category at 1.22 PPP.
Something NBA types will be happy to learn is that Harden created quite a bit of offense by himself in isolation type situationsóhis 5.2 possessions per game ranks just behind Dar Tucker amongst the 19 we looked at. He still has quite a bit of room to improve here, though, only ranking 7th in PPP with .89. We should point out that three of the players (Paul Harris, Alex Ruoff and Eric Devendorf) ranked ahead of him here were very low usage typesóthe only two who really stand out as being superior in this aspect are Jeff Teague (5 possessions per game, 1.08 PPP) and Jack McClinton (4 possessions per game, 1.07 PPP). Harden turns the ball over at a fairly high rate, and isn't as effective driving right (39% FG) as he is going left (44% FG)ówhich makes sense since heís left-handed. He also doesn't draw quite as many fouls as you might hope. However, it is more than safe to say that Harden could be a very effective offensive player if teamís put him position to succeed. [Read Full Article]
Blogging Through the NCAA Tournament (Day Four) March 22, 2009 On the other hand, James Harden had yet another underwhelming NCAA tournament performance, concluding a weekend that will raise eyebrows even amongst his biggest supporters, and clearly opening up the discussion for who the third best prospect in the draft is after Blake Griffin and Ricky Rubio (if he declares). The concerns around Harden have always revolved around whether or not he has enough of a go-to mentality to warrant being picked in the top-5, as most teams would obviously like to get a franchise caliber talent that high in the draft. This weekend put those questions right back onto the table.
Harden had yet another passive, lethargic start, similar to the way he performed in the first half against Temple. He actually finished the first half without a single point, and wasnít able to pick up a field goal until the 9:30 mark in the second half. There is no question that Syracuseís defensive game-plan had a lot to do with the way Harden played, as they adjusted their 2-3 zone significantly to try and deny him the ball, at the risk of leaving other playersósuch as Rihard Kuksiks (6/13 3P) and Ty Abbot (6/10 3P) wide open.
It was a little bit concerning to see the lack of aggressiveness Harden showed trying to overcome that, though, as he gave up the ball quite easily on numerous possessions without even looking at the rim, and just didnít display much urgency trying to make things happen. Late in the game (just like against Temple) Harden got a lot more aggressive and immediately started making things happen on the floor, putting the ball on the floor and getting to the free throw line a few times, picking up a nice steal, grabbing a crucial offensive rebound and making some great passes. It was too little, too late, though, and you have to wonder why it took him so long to get going. He also had problems finishing around the basket, which is not surprising considering that heís not terribly explosive.
Hardenís resume speaks for itself, and there is no question that he is the top shooting guard prospect in this draft. Considering that heís only 19 years old, heís only going to improve as he continues to gain experience and understands how to better utilize his incredible all-around talent. His performance here in the NCAA tournament didnít help his draft stock, though, and definitely opens up the door for him to be leapfrogged by other players. At the end of the day, that might not be the end of the world, as heís clearly the type of player who needs to find the right fit. [Read Full Article] College Road Report: Arizona State vs. UCLA & USC February 17, 2009 Taking in two games in person here in Tempe gave us an excellent opportunity to evaluate the progress of James Harden, clearly one of the top prospects in this yearís draft. Heís one of the more unique players youíll find this year, and opinions about him are bound to vary widely.
The first thing that stands out about Harden is the fact that he is likely to be considered a below average athlete for the NBA level. His first step and pure explosiveness are nothing to write home about, meaning he has to find other ways to make his presence felt.
Harden plays a European style of basketball, making simple plays on every possession. Heís the consummate team player, showing extreme patience and never looking in a rush. He has a great assortment of hesitation moves and change of pace dribbles, often getting by players with a series of crafty maneuvers rather than with a pure first step. His physical attributes obviously arenít ideal, but he knows how to make the most of them, thanks to his terrific basketball IQ.
Productivity wise, Harden has obviously elevated his game to being one of the top players in the NCAA this season. He is a terrific scorer, currently ranking as the 5th best in college basketball (per-40 minutes pace adjusted), despite the fact that every defense he faces is geared to stop him. He gets to the free throw line like an absolute machine regardless, ranking 8th in free throw attempts amongst all draft prospects.
Although heís one of the premier scorers in college basketball, Harden is an incredibly willing passer, displaying absolutely terrific court vision, particularly in his ability to drop off passes for easy finishes in the post, or finding the open man spotting up on the perimeter. Similar to Manu Ginobili, Harden is a clear-cut lefty who is much better going to his strong hand. The defense knows he wants to go in that direction, but is often unable to get him to do so, as he picks his spots so well.
Hardenís shooting stroke is fairly peculiar, as he shoots a solid percentage from beyond the arc, but is mostly limited to flat-footed attempts. He struggles big time when trying to pull up off the dribble, seeing his percentages drop from 43 to 24 percent on non catch and shoot situations. He still makes a good amount of 3-point shots each game, on a solid 38% clip. The fact that he gets such little elevation on his jumper, cannot shoot off screens, and possesses very little in the ways of a mid-range game is somewhat of a concern at the moment, and something he definitely needs to work on in the NBA.
Defensively, Harden is very effective, as he plays a very smart, pesky, fundamental brand of defense, showing great timing and a real knack for making big plays. He comes up with plenty of blocks and steals, and is an excellent rebounder as well at his position. The fact that he possesses average size and lateral quickness might make it tough for him to defend the truly elite shooting guards in the NBA, but heís such a smart player that you really donít want to rule him out.
All in all, Harden is bound to make some NBA team very happy with the variety of skills he brings to the table, even if he might not project as a franchise-level talent and go-to guy right off the bat. While his upside might not be that of a superstar, he looks very likely to achieve his potential, making him a pretty safe pick. Whether heís worthy or not of being the top-3 or 5 pick heís currently projected as will likely depend heavily on the other prospects available, but from what we can tell now, he has a strong case to be considered the next best player after Blake Griffin is off the board. [Read Full Article]
Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-10 (Part One: #1-5) September 24, 2008 While the amount of media attention he got may not have matched the likes of Kevin Love or O.J. Mayo last season, James Harden sure made a comparable first-year resume, becoming Arizona Stateís go-to player and leading scorer practically as soon as the season started, and earning All-Pac-10 First Team honors for it. Harden didnít just score 17.8 points per game; he did it very efficiently, shooting 53% from the field and 41% from three, while putting up a very strong 63% TS%.
Someone we covered twice during the 2007-08 season, there really isnít much new to say about Harden since we last spoke of him in January. The biggest thing to take note of is how his level of play didnít fall off against conference competition, as he showed little trouble consistently performing against the tougher foes night in and night out. We also noticed at the adidas Nations tournament in Dallas that he appears to have improved his physique over the summer, standing a solid 6-5 with a very sturdy and now slimmer frame.
As has been mentioned before, not being the greatest athlete in the world, Hardenís exceptional play level is due mostly to his fundamentals and excellent know-how on the court. Not a flashy ball-handler, Harden is very controlled with the ball, and rarely will use many highly advanced moves other than his effective crossover.
Thatís not to say heís a straight-line dribbler at all, though, as he constantly uses excellent craftiness to adjust with the ball in the lane, utilizing jump stops, stop-and-pivot moves, misdirection steps, and hesitation dribbles to change directions in the lane, getting his defender off balance and weaving his way to high percentage shot attempts. Heís definitely capable of making more adjustments when using his dominant left dribble, but still does a good job on right-handed drives.
Around the basket, Hardenís level of craftiness continues to impress, as he goes to a variety of floaters, finger rolls, and lay-ups to get the job done, making good use of the openings the defense provides for him. Itís very impressive heís able to finish with such effectiveness around the rim despite rarely using his right hand or using explosive strength to score with power.
As a jump shooter, Harden is very effective spotting up, with range to the NBA three-point line, but his effectiveness falls off when pulling up, as he lacks a certain degree of fluidity or comfort when transitioning from dribble to shot with a defender on him. He has a tendency to fade away on these pull-up shots from deep, and his accuracy is not very good when pulling up from mid-range. Improving this ripple of his game, while making him more of a threat from the mid-range, would make him that much more dangerous a player.
For all his scoring prowess, and partially due to the system he plays in, itís easy to overlook his phenomenal passing game. He clearly excels there as well, showing the same terrific understanding of the game in this area and frequently creating good shot attempts for teammates. Not flashy in this segment of his game either, Harden does most of his damage on quick, simple drive-and-kicks or good post entry/pick-and-roll passes.
His excellent fundamentals and basketball IQ really stand out when you consider that he was one of the youngest players in all of college basketball last season, having only turned 19 a month ago. In Dallas at the adidas Nations tournament, he arrived a day later than most but wasted no time at all asserting his will against anyone he matched up with, largely with his ability to create both for himself and especially for others.
Itís tough to get a great feel for Harden on the defensive end, as he is rarely put in isolation situations in ASUís zone defense, but on the few we saw over the course of the year, his lateral quickness seemed adequate, as did his reflexes and instincts. As a team defender, Harden is very strong, as he uses his length and hands to constantly disrupt the opposing teamís offense, making 2.1 steals per game and contesting many outside shots.
With the 2009 draft class not looking very deep in elite talent, Harden looks like heís going to be in a great situation come June, as if he picks up where he left off as a freshman, and makes a few improvements to his game, he could easily see himself in discussions for the lottery. Heís not your typical lottery shooting guard prospect due to his just adequate athleticism and a style that doesnít net him nearly any highlight reel plays, but with his build, length, and excellent feel for the game, if he can improve on last seasonís performance, heíll definitely be someone scouts and executives will be talking about. [Read Full Article] NCAA Weekly Performers, 01/15/2008 Ė Part One January 15, 2008 Arizona Stateís excellent start to their Pac-10 schedule (3-0 in conference, 13-2 overall) combined with the terrific season their freshman wing player is having warrants another look at James Hardenóone of the nicer stories from this terrific class. Heís the youngest player in the Pac-10, but has regardless jumped out as the early favorite for freshman of the year honors (although itís certainly neck and neck with Jerryd Bayless and Kevin Love), in addition to All-Conference team consideration.
Harden has become Arizona Stateís go-to guy already, the player they look to late in games and early in possessions to give them some serious scoring punch from the perimeter. Harden is a long-armed freshman with an outstanding frame, but just average athleticism for an NBA shooting guard prospectóalthough his strength, coordination and timing help make up for that.
Not the greatest ball-handler in the world, nor super explosive with his first step, Herb Sendek has regardless found ways to get the ball in Hardenís hands in stride to take advantage of his terrific scoring instincts. They like to bring him off a handoff or short cut coming off a curl to allow him to catch the ball and go straight to the basket with his left hand (his natural hand), where he can either take contact and get to the free throw line or finish craftily around the rim. Harden is a terrific fit for Sendekís offense since heís extremely intelligent and is very adept at moving off the ball for backdoor and flex cuts.
Harden is a mature player with great poise and excellent scoring instincts, showing great understanding of angles and terrific fundamentals to get the job done. He possesses excellent timing and really sees the floor well, reading defenses and knowing how to exploit openings as soon as they materialize. He likes to use jab-steps and shot-fakes on the perimeter and has plenty of counters he can go to. Even though he favors his left hand, heís not afraid to go to his right hand if he feels like the defense is overplaying his stronger hand. He doesnít blow players away with his first step, but heís very adept at getting his man off balance and then keeping them at bay riding them on his hip all the way to the basket for a crafty finish.
Making Harden even more dangerous is the fact that heís also a very effective shooter from the perimeter, hitting a terrific 45% of his 3-point attempts on the year. He doesnít take a ton of them, but hits the ones he tries at a good rate and is excellent with his feet set, even showing range out to the NBA 3-point line if left open. Something that he can probably still add to his game is an effective pull-up jumper he can utilize from mid-range. Having a weapon like that at his disposal would make him a very complete scorer, and really could take his offensive game to the next level in his sophomore season.
Defensively, Harden is not the easiest player to evaluate since Arizona State spends a considerable amount of time in a matchup zone. He does seem to have a good understanding on this end of the floor though, looking pretty intense, with good fundamentals, and a nice wingspan, and doing a solid job of keeping his man in front of him, although his lateral quickness does not look outstanding.
As far as his NBA prospects go, even though there is clearly a lot to like here, it feels a bit early to definitively evaluate his NBA potential at this point. Not being a prototypical athlete at the shooting guard position (think Martell Webster), nor a superb shot-creator, there are some question marks regarding how his scoring prowess will carry over to the next level. The incredibly tough Pac-10 slate should teach us a lot from here until the end of the season. We must keep in mind that heís only a freshman, though, and that he still seems to be finding a way to get the job done, even with his obvious limitations. Thatís pretty impressive regardless of how you look at it, so you can be sure that this is a prospect weíll be following closely from here on out. [Read Full Article]
NCAA Weekly Performers, 12/19/2007 December 20, 2007 After scoring just six points in 22 minutes in his collegiate debut, Harden has really come into his own, reaching double-figure scoring in eight of his next nine games. Standing 6í5 with long arms, a well-built frame, and solid athleticism, the left-handed Harden brings a lot of skills to the table for a freshman, and has already helped lead his team to strong wins against LSU and Xavier, which was ranked 17th at the time of the game.
Hardenís game starts on the offensive end, where he can stroke it from behind the arc or take the ball to the basket, but not do much in between. Harden has been efficient with his spot-up outside shot in the early going, hitting 42% of his shots, but has taken only 19 attempts, and has had very inconsistent results. His shooting form is very solid, but he needs to get more consistent with the results.
Harden uses the threat of his shot well to fake and get past his man, often taking the ball to the basket from behind the three-point arc with ease. He has a strong left-handed dribble and is respectable with his right, though he takes extremely long strides with the ball, getting him to the basket very quickly even though he doesnít possess elite athleticism. Harden has shown some nice stop-and-pivot drives along with the ability to adjust and take contact in mid-air, looking outstanding on some occasions, but sometimes makes peculiar decisions in the lane, not reading situations well and making poor choices of what moves to use. These are likely typical freshman mistakes as he acclimates himself to the new level of competition, as at times heís shown great flashes of awareness.
Harden is also a pretty good passer for a wing, showing good court vision, especially in transition, though he doesnít seem to have any point or combo guard in him. He doesnít tend to dribble a lot on the perimeter or in transition, just using his dribble when he needs to get to the rim. Harden also makes his presence felt on the boards, attacking the rim on both ends of the court, already having three 8+ rebound games.
On the defensive end, Harden uses his length very well to disrupt, picking off passes from the weakside or contesting and blocking shots on the perimeter. He is very active and aware while showing a good defensive stance, though his lateral quickness hasnít been extensively tested with Arizona State playing a lot of zone defense.
Harden still has a lot to work on with his game, improving the consistency on his outside shot, reading situations better on drives, and adding a mid-range game to his repertoire, but heís off to a good start to his collegiate career. He has adequate size, strength, and athleticism for an NBA shooting guard, and has a good foundation of skill to go along with it. Itís too early to accurately project what kind of prospect Harden will be considered by the time he comes out in a few years, but he is certainly in a good situation to showcase himself getting great playing time in the Pac-10 with Arizona State. [Read Full Article] Roundball Classic: Game Player Breakdowns April 5, 2007 Quietly Harden had one of the better all around games of any player in the Roundball, He shot the ball well from the outside, found the open man in transition, and showed off his deceptive athleticism on a few slam dunks. While the Artesia product is never going to blow you away in any facet of the game, he is one of those players who quietly gets it done and ďwowsĒ you once you take a look at the box score. Look for him to team up with his former high school teammate Derrick Glasser at ASU, where James will have the opportunity to put up big scoring numbers from the second he steps foot on campus. [Read Full Article]
Sidney, Harden lead Artesia over Mater Dei March 6, 2007 Artesia senior guard James Harden will join his close friend and former teammate Derek Glasser at Arizona State next season, in addition to former Artesia head coach Scott Pera (now an ASU assistant). His all-around talent will be a large asset to the Sun Devils next season, and he will have a chance to shine as a freshman.
Harden displayed his ability to get to the hoop from the start of the game against Mater Dei. He possesses great control of his body, and finishes with great strength at the basket. He finished numerous layups in traffic after taking contact from much taller opposing players. Though he didnít display it on Saturday, Harden has developed a reputation for being a great outside shooting. He has a quick and effective stroke, releasing the ball high and with good rotation (though he lacks elevation). At this point, it also appears that Harden may have combo guard potential. His ability to see the floor led to some great looks for his teammates, and he also can break the defender down off the dribble and dish to the open man.
In crunch time, Harden stepped up his game and made key plays when they were needed most. With Mater Dei closing the gap late in the game, he took the ball aggressively to the hoop, and picked up the foul while nearly finishing the layup. He went to the free throw line and calmly made both free throws. Hardenís composure with the ball late in the game was key for this win for Artesia.
Defensively, Harden seems to be very well rounded at this point. He moves his feet well, and always keeps good positioning to recover when helping out. In addition to his solid fundamentals, he has quick hands, and good anticipation skills.
Physically, Harden has limitations in some areas at this point. He lacks great speed and quickness, appearing to be an average overall athlete. This was especially apparent off the dribble, where his drives were a result of his ball handling ability rather than a great first step. Harden does have a fairly quick vertical leap, and he compensates in other areas for what he lacks physically. Off the dribble, Harden has the tendency to go left every single time. He did make a layup with his right hand on one occasion, but the rest of the game everything was going to his stronger hand.
James Harden will give Arizona State a nice boost next season. He will compliment the games of Christian Polk and Derek Glasser nicely, and they should be more competitive in the Pac 10 because of it. Harden has the upside to be a contributor in the NBA if he continues to work on his game, and it will be interesting to see how he develops after a few seasons at in Tempe. [Read Full Article]