Player Projection: James Harden

by Jon Nichols

Today I’m continuing the player projection series with a look at James Harden of the Arizona State Sun Devils using my Box Score Prediction System (explanation here: 

Harden is a pure scorer with a variety of skills.  He’s also a volume scorer who takes (and makes) many shots a game.  Similar to Chris Douglas-Roberts, he just has “it” when it comes to finding a way to put the ball in the basket.  However, despite his success, he does have some limitations.  He’s a bit short for an NBA shooting guard.  Also, although he’s athletic, he’s not at an elite level in that regard.

How does BSPS think he’ll do in the NBA?  Let’s take a look at his projected NBA box score per 36 minutes:

James Harden Box Score

For a potential lottery pick who’s made a name for himself by scoring, 16.71 points per 36 minutes is not a whole lot. The only difference between that box score and the box scores of shooting guard scorers such as Vince Carter and Joe Johnson is that Harden is projected to take less shots per game.  His field goal percentage, three point attempts, and free throw attempts aren’t atypical of high volume scorers.  13 field goal attempts per 36 minutes is.

So Harden should just take more shots, right?  That’s one possible solution.  The question is whether or not he has the athleticism to create shots in the NBA.  If he doesn’t, he’ll end up forcing attempts and become highly inefficient.  The other option would be to increase his efficiency.  The projected field goal percentage above (43.1%) is not particularly high.  To become more efficient, he needs to do at least one of the following things: increase his two-point percentage, take more threes, or draw more fouls.

What about the rest of his game?  Across the board, Harden looks like a pretty average shooting guard.  He’ll dish out a few assists, grab a few boards, turn the ball over every once in a while, etc. 

It’s clear that Harden’s ability to score will make or break his career.  The projection above leaves him as nothing but a role player.  To become a star, he’ll either need to increase his workload while maintaining the same efficiency (this may depend on his athleticism and creativeness) or become more efficient. 






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