James Harden's ability to get bucket after bucket has not been hampered in the least by the addition of fellow ball-pounding enthusiast Russell Westbrook. This was a major concern, though not the only concern-- meshing together and creating a team capable of emerging from a crowded Western Conference is the real goal here. At 16-8, the Rockets appear on course to get homecourt advantage before going through one, perhaps two Los Angeles-based teams.
Last night, Harden poured in 55 points in a victory over Cleveland. He did this while shooting a season-low five free throws, meaning those who knock him from feasting from the charity stripe will have to find a new slant for a day or so. But however Harden is gathering his points, he's building an impressive arsenal before the winter chill sets in for good.
So many points, in fact, that he's not only on pace to break the mark he set last year, which was quite impressive on its own; he's currently pouring in 38.7 points/game, up from 36.1, which was the highest mark since Michael Jordan in 1986-87. But if Harden keeps this level of production up, it will be the most prolific per game scoring since Wilt Chamberlain (44.8) in 1962-63 and the third-best in league history.
The big, bad bearded one has always been adept at ripping nets. But he's only becoming stronger. Since averaging 25.4 points in 2013-14, Harden has raised his mark in each year. Last season brought a 5.7-point jump. It's not out of the question to think he could end up flirting with the 40.0 figure when the 82 games are said and done.
Say what you want about his style of play. Say what you want about his mind-boggling usage rate. Hate the aesthetics and politicking for calls. He's certainly not the most perfect or enjoyable player the league has ever seen.
Yet think of all the greats who could never match what he's doing. The three-point line has helped greatly. But Harden is the general of that revolution, the person who has weaponized it -- as well as the free throw line -- to become an unstoppable scoring machine. Not only is he rewriting the way the game is played, he's rewriting the history books.
And he's not done.