“We had to make up for those 15 points that we lost,” Harden said. “Everybody’s level of play had to step up.”
Harden, though, shot up to a level few thought he could reach — at least not this quickly.
In 15 games since the All-Star break, Harden has averaged 17.7 points. That total trails only Dallas’ Jason Terry for points off the bench over that span. Harden’s 50.6 percent shooting over that same span, meanwhile, ranks fifth among shooting guards with at least 10 games played.
By comparison, Harden averaged just 10.3 points on 41.3 percent shooting prior to the All-Star break. The turnaround has transformed the second-year guard into one of the league’s best Sixth Men.
Harden repeatedly says all he’s doing differently is being more aggressive.
Brooks, on the other hand, has made it a point to put Harden in better positions to score. Rather than utilize Harden as solely a spot-up shooter and an occasional mid-pick-and-roll threat, the Thunder is now running him off screens, searching for him in transition, putting the ball in his hands and allowing him to make plays more frequently and running designed backdoor sets.
I haven’t watched much of the Thunder since the trade because Perkins hasn’t been healthy until recently. I was waiting for him to come back to see the squad at full strength to get a grip on what type of threat they’ll be come playoff time – and they do look dangerous – so I haven’t seen much of this hot streak of Harden’s.
So with that in mind, at this point in time, I believe this is more of a temporary run of play rather than a permanent development. That Harden won’t be able to continue at this pace for the rest of the season.
However, I am impressed with his play and do believe that he can perform better than he has in the first 18 months of his NBA career + and I do expect him to play at a higher level for the remainder of the season and in the future with Jeff Green gone … simply because Harden now has more opportunities to show his talents.