Yes you read that correctly. One of the league’s most prolific scorers known for his ball-dominant tendencies and 40+ point games can add another bullet-point to his resume; assist leader.
Although the 2016-’17 season has only been underway for approximately 1 week, Harden is averaging 12.3 APG, sitting ahead of LeBron James (10.7 APG) and John Wall (10 APG). This uptick is largely in part of D’Antoni’s new system which has catapulted Harden into a legitimate point(s) guard role, holding the ball more than he ever has before.
The downside of a seemingly positive uptick in assist production is a higher-turnover rate. Sure you can question some of these turnovers in relation to Harden’s natural play-making ability but most of this is just volume.
On most Houston Rocket possessions, Harden is holding the ball at least 41% of the time, per shot clock. So by volume alone, he will most likely stay in the top tier of players turning over the ball but that shouldn’t necessarily overshadow his newfound responisiblity of passing.
From a holistic view, most people don’t realize that Harden has actually improved his assist numbers every single year since his rookie season with OKC.
- Season 1 (w/ OKC): 1.8 APG
- Season 2 (w/OKC): 2.1 APG
- Season 3 (w/ OKC): 3.7 APG
- Season 4: (w/ Houston): 5.8 APG
- Season 5: (w/ Houston): 6.1 APG
- Season 6: (w/ Houston): 7.0 APG
- Season 7: (w/ Houston):7.5 APG
- Season 8: (w/ Houston): 12.3 APG
It’s unlikely to believe that Harden will stay around the 12 APG mark for the duration of this season but if the last 7 seasons tell us anything about probability; this will be another year of improved passing from a man who generally isn’t known for his passing.