Today, we all know what James Harden can do. Since his trade to the Rockets in 2012, he has been nothing short of spectacular, averaging 29.6 points, 7.7 assists, and 6 rebounds per game on 44% shooting.
But back in 2009, when Harden was still being scouted as a member of Arizona State University, they clearly had much to learn about the young basketball phenom. In a 2009 scouting report, they dinged James for shooting, scoring off the dribble, and free-throw attempts — all areas he ironically excels in today.
“A lot of Harden’s efficiency comes from an area that most probably wouldn’t expect it to. In spite of his perceived athletic limitations, Harden was a terrific finisher around the basket this season. Not only did he get to the rim more than any other player on our list (8.7 Pos/G), he ranked first in comfortably at 1.25 PPP. Considering the questions surrounding his ability to translate his finishing ability to the NBA, these numbers can only help his cause. Ironically, they dont seem to offer much support for one of his bigger perceived strengths.”
“Harden’s biggest shortcoming ended up being in the perimeter shooting department. He was terrific on the very few catch and shoot opportunities he received with his feet set (2.4 Pos/G), but really struggled when being contested (.85 PPP) or shooting off the dribble (.73 PPP). In fact, the 27% he shot from the field off the dribble is the lowest of any of the nineteen players in our sample.”
“Harden turns the ball over at a fairly high rate and isn’t as effective driving right (39% FG) as he is going left (44% FG) which makes sense since he’s left-handed. He also doesn’t draw quite as many fouls as you might hope. However, it is more than safe to say that Harden could be a very effective offensive player if teams put him in position to succeed.”
Even though he was a stud back then, nobody could have predicted who he would become now. Even though he was drafted 3rd overall by the Thunder, he has already far exceeded expectations.
Needless to say, Harden has grown a lot as a player since 2009. Today, he is known for his scoring and, most notably, his ability to draw contact at the rim.
Who knows how much his game will grow in the years to come. But if he continues to shine as he has, the sky is truly the limit.