When James Harden posted outings of 37 and 45 points to open up the season, we instantly began to sing the Houston Rockets' praises as a postseason contender. The main reason for this was the near-perfect balance between Harden and Jeremy Lin, who facilitated an elite-level offense.
As the past four games have taught us, however, the Houston Rockets cannot afford to make James Harden and Jeremy Lin do it all.
The overachieving Rockets have had quite the interesting road to 3-3. During the first two games of the season, Lin and Harden led Houston to consecutive games with at least 100 points.
Over the next four outings, the team averaged just 88.3 points. The burden placed on Lin and Harden's shoulders is exactly why.
Just don't expect that to change.
Per a report via John Rohde of The Oklahoman, assistant coach Kelvin Sampson does not believe there to be an issue with the current system. Instead, he believes that the poor results will correct themselves by virtue of continuing to attack with the same strategy.
“You don’t want James Harden in a democratic offense,” Sampson said. “He has to learn to play in the flow, but shooting is not an equal-opportunity proposition. If you’re on a team [and] your best player is not getting the most shots, there’s probably an issue.”
Last time I checked, points go onto the scoreboard regardless of who makes the basket. Just as a miss is a miss, regardless of who is shooting 32.4 percent from the floor.
Which is exactly what Harden has done over the past four games.
Lin isn't faring much better, as he's averaging 37.3 percent from the floor. Although his turnovers are down to a respectable 2.7 per game, Harden's are presently sitting at 5.0 per contest.
Each player has suffered from the "stars over efficiency" mindset that the Rockets have come to embrace. Just don't think that every member of the Rockets is on the same page.
According to small forward Carlos Delfino, the issue with the Rockets' offense is not Harden's poor shooting. It's the fact that their style of play has become far too predictable.
Virtually contradicting the sentiment of assistant coach Sampson:
“[The offense has] become too predictable sometimes. Just because we know we have a guy like James [Harden] creating and Jeremy [Lin], even if you are going to finish with pick-and-roll, from my point of view, you should be able to get another play before that pick-and-roll happens. It’s better to finish with a pick-and-roll in the last 10 seconds than the first five or 10 seconds, because the defense is already set.”
Like it or not, Delfino is spot-on with his evaluation.
The Rockets are placing the ball in the hands of Harden and Lin with virtually no direction. Instead, they're allowing the duo to dictate the pace of the offense, regardless of how poorly they're performing.
Although Sampson may believe that a star will lead the Rockets to the promised land, hero ball is a lost form of attack.
The reason for said change is an evaluation of history. Per a study of the recent NBA championship winners, it appears as if a read-and-react approach often garners greater results than a heavy reliance upon one player.
Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade were almost always handed the ball in the fourth quarter. Prior to the final period of play, however, there was an even distribution of the workload in which the hot hand was fed.
A democracy, as coach Sampson refers to it.
Considering Harden and Lin are not yet at the level of a Bryant, Wade or Nowitzki, it's rather preposterous that the Rockets are relying upon their production for all four quarters. In order to reach its maximum level of success, Houston must embrace democracy.
If they don't, the team will crumble under the burden placed upon Harden and Lin's shoulders.