MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 15: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies of the Houston Rockets against the Memphis Grizzlies during a game on December 14, 2018 at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee.
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Harden Pushing the Limits of Basketball

The reigning MVP is attempting an unfathomable amount of 3-pointers just to keep the Rockets in the playoff picture. He may have created the latest positional archetype in the process. By Jonathan Tjarks via The Ringer.

Via The Ringer - James Harden is doing something we have never seen before. The reigning MVP is playing the best basketball of his career since Chris Paul went down with a hamstring injury on December 20, averaging 41.8 points, 8.4 assists, and 6.2 rebounds over the past five games. The big change has been the sheer number of 3s that he’s taking: He’s averaging 16.4 attempts per game over that stretch. No one, not even Steph Curry, has shot 3s at anywhere near that rate. Harden isn’t just playing out of his mind—he’s pushing the limits of the sport.

Curry shattered the NBA record for most 3-point attempts per game in a season (11.2 per game) during the Warriors’ 73-win season in 2015-16, with Harden coming in fourth (8.0 attempts per game). The two guards have been no. 1 and no. 2 in the NBA in 3-point attempts per game over the past two seasons, with the edge going to Curry in 2016-17, and to Harden last season. This season, Harden has pushed further past his old rival and reached escape velocity in this recent hot streak, raising his season average from 11.1 per game to 11.9 and climbing. Harden’s 3-point rates have increased in all 10 seasons of his NBA career, and they could go even higher in the years to come.

Harden is moving into uncharted territory, turning historical oddities into a nightly routine. There have been only 48 games in NBA history in which a player has attempted at least 17 3s. Harden has now done it in three of his past five. It’s hard to say what will come next. Maybe this is just a small sample size of five games. Maybe his massive workload will wear him down. Or maybe he is showing how powerful the 3-point shot can be in the right situation...

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