On the same day he signed a 5-year, $80-million contract with his new team, James Harden scored 37 points in a performance that captured exactly what makes him so good.
Harden is a great player for a simple reason: He only takes the two most efficient shots in basketball (3’s and lay-ups), and makes them more than the average player.
ESPN Stats & Info tweeted out Harden’s shot chart from last night. 21 of his 25 shots were either at the basket or beyond the arc.
Photo: ESPN Stats & Info
That’s not a small sample-size error either. Kirk Goldsberry charted all of Harden’s shots last year for Grantland, and found that 87% of his shots were either near the rim or beyond the arc.
If you could program a basketball player with a computer, those are precisely the shots you’d tell him to take.
The website 82games.com charted NBA shots, divided the court into zones, and determined which shots were the most efficient in the game. Here’s how they ranked:
- Corner 3’s (118.8 points per 100 possessions)
- Low paint (117.1)
- Straight-away 3’s (105.3)
- Wing 3’s (88.7)
- Straight-away 2’s (85.7)
- High paint (85.2)
- Baseline 2’s (81.9)
- Wing 2’s (68.6)
Last year, according to Basketball Reference, 33.3% of Harden’s shots were in the low paint, and 43.8% of them were three pointers. So 76.8% of his attempts were from the four best places on the court to take a shot.
That’s exactly what he did last night.
Harden has holes defensively, and he still hasn’t shown that he can carry a team night after night. But his offensive game is masterfully efficient, and that’s why he’s worth every penny of that $80 million extension.
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