Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, a brilliant offensive mind and the architect of the seven-seconds-or-less Phoenix Suns, called James Harden “the best offensive player I’ve ever seen.”
Mike D’Antoni on James Harden: “He’s the best offensive player I’ve ever seen. The way he can pass, see the floor, get fouls, layups, floaters, maybe a lob, maybe out to the corner — he has so many weapons. Now he’s shooting that step-back 3. It’s impossible to guard him."
— kerry eggers (@kerryeggers) March 21, 2018
This after Harden collected 42 points and seven assists in a 115-111 victory against a Portland Trail Blazers team that entered the game having won 13 straight games. He punctuated the win, of course, with a pair of step-back 3-pointers in the closing minutes that gave the Rockets just enough cushion.
Good defense, better offense!
— NBA (@NBA) March 21, 2018
Asked afterward what goes through his mind when big men switch onto him in the pick-and-roll, Harden said, “Barbecue chicken.” But it’s not just bigs Harden is cooking this season. His 31.2 points per game lead the NBA, and his 8.7 assists a night rank third behind only Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. Combined, Harden’s production leads the league in total points added, and he is an overwhelming favorite to capture MVP honors after finishing second in two of the past three seasons.
“He’s a hell of a player, first off,” added D’Antoni, via USA Today’s Sam Amick. “It’s a combination of everything. There are other players who might be better at this, or a little bit better at that. But when you put everything together, and the way he passes, the way he sees teammates, the way he can lob, the way he can fight through a foul. I mean even on an off night, he’s probably getting 30, 40 points, and I mean efficiently. And he doesn’t even have anything going. But he’s so efficient, and he gets other guys involved. … He’s got one flaw. He does get tired some. He’s mortal. And that’s it.”
This is high praise from D’Antoni, who coached former MVPs Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant during his tenures on the Suns and Los Angeles Lakers. He has coached in the league for the better part of two decades, starting as a Denver Nuggets assistant when Michael Jordan was putting the finishing touches on his run of six NBA championships in eight seasons, and D’Antoni played four NBA seasons in the 1970s, when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ruled the league. In between, he played and coached overseas.
This may be recency bias or this-dude-plays-on-my-team-right-now bias, but you get the sense D’Antoni believes he is currently coaching the greatest offensive force in NBA history. As for the defense and that bit about running out of steam in the playoffs, well, that’s a different story.
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