8. James Harden
Speaking of offensively-gifted stars who don’t play fantastic defense, James Harden is probably one of the best three or four players in the entire NBA on the offensive end. Harden has scored more points than anybody else in the NBA for the last two seasons, and has been seemingly the only player on the Houston Rockets able to score points for much of that stretch.
Despite the general consensus that he’s washed, the absence of Dwight Howard will hurt Harden, not help him. Harden’s defensive metrics actually look almost decent from last season, and the Rockets had the 21st ranked defense by defensive rating.
Replacing Howard with Clint Capela and planning on starting Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon will almost certainly make that defense even worse, further exposing Harden on that end. His offensive numbers will be unbelievable in Mike D’Antoni‘s system next season, but the Rockets will struggle to ever hold teams to under 100 points.
Improving on 29.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from three-point territory will be tough, but if anybody could do it it’d be James Harden. If he can improve or even hold his defensive numbers from last season, Harden might be a darkhorse MVP candidate.
Unfortunately, with the lack of solid defenders around him that’s a lot to ask from anybody, much less Harden. He also loses points here for designing these things:
Next: Number Seven