Wednesday, October 31, 2012

James Harden to the Rockets

James Harden made what was unquestionably the right business decision when he turned down Oklahoma City's offer. The offer included a hometown discount that would have cost Harden approximately $2 million per year AND OKC was not able to offer a 5th year on the deal because they already have a "Designated Player" in Russell Westbrook. Under the new collective bargaining agreement a team can have one player on a five year extension of their rookie deal at a time. Westbrook's extension runs through 2017 so the Thunder will not be able to designate a different player until then.

The interesting thing for me is that Houston was on the other end of the deal. Daryl Morey has made no secret of his desire to get a superstar and Daryl Morey tends to approach these things from a more quantitative perspective than most, so what did he see in Harden that convinced him that he could make the leap from 6th man to star? John Hollinger helpfully provides the answer:
"Thanks to's whiz-bang stats tool, we can see that Harden's per-minute scoring more than doubled when Durant was on the bench, from 14.9 points per 36 minutes to 31.2, and he did it with a higher shooting percentage and an absurdly high free throw rate. The same shift happened without Westbrook on the court, from 13.7 to 29.0, and again it was accompanied by a five-point jump in shooting percentage and a near-tripling of his free throw rate."
Of course, Harden and his beard went off tonight and he ran up 37 points and 12 assists so maybe this is all understood by now. Just don't be surprised if he keeps it up. Morey is probably feeling pretty good about the deal today between that domination and getting Harden extended at the maximum $80 million over five years.

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