James Harden and 10 NBA Stars Being Asked to Do Too Much
Today's NBA generally has three different types of teams. If you're not a team with a multitude of star players or a rebuilding team relying on rookies, then you've usually got one main guy doing a lot of the work.
Teams like the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers are obvious candidates. There's a single player who is doing the plurality of the scoring, grabbing rebounds, dishing out assists and altogether having very good games, but their teams still end up winning.
In James Harden's case, he has become the only player on his team that can be trusted at extended stretches to actually score, and if he doesn't then the entire game might as well be flushed down the toilet.
That's a big reason why this team is going to be very volatile over the course of the season, and if they don't find a consistent offensive player to go to besides Harden, it's going to be tough for this team to make a playoff run.
There are quite a few teams like that around the league that need to give their main guys a little bit of help, but for some teams, it's going to be easier than others.
10. Anthony Davis
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The New Orleans Hornets have won two games without Anthony Davis, but it's becoming increasingly obvious that they're going to be relying on Davis to do quite a bit for this team moving forward.
Already he's looking like he's going to have to be the anchor of the defense, beyond the normal rim-patroller that most big men are expected to be. As a rookie it's a lot to ask for, but if anybody can do i,t I think Davis can.
Beyond that, Davis is going to have to take on a pretty decent sized scoring load for New Orleans. In just three games Davis was only 24 points behind Ryan Anderson, who was leading the team in scoring in Davis' absence.
It might be a bit to ask of a young fellow, but as of right now it looks like he may be able to take it all on.
9. Andre Iguodala
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The Denver Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league, but a lot of their late-game heroics have relied on Andre Iguodala in the first few games of the season.
Iggy is Denver's leading scorer, he's expected to grab around seven rebounds a game and he has to be a ball handler at times when the team's point guard is on lockdown.
The biggest part that he needs to take for Denver is when the clock starts winding down and Iggy suddenly becomes the bail-out guy. Even further, he's the only one that's been hitting big shots late in the game, at least until Danilo Gallinari hit a few big shots recently.
A lot of the pressure put on him is because of the Nuggets' struggles from the field. Eventually they seem to expect Gallinari to take a bit of that on, but so far this season he's been off and on.
8. DeMarcus Cousins
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I'm not so sure it's that DeMarcus Cousins is expected to do too much or just that he ends up doing too much, because he shoots a ton of times per game.
Aside from the guard play, Cousins is the offense—and it makes it even worse that he's been wildly inefficient so far this season, shooting 43 percent from the floor.
Not only that, Cousins might be the only person on this team besides Chuck Hayes that plays defense. He's not actively trying to keep guys from scoring on every play, but he's trying harder than ever to rack up the glamour stats, averaging two steals and a block per game.
It doesn't help that nearly everybody on this team is a classic shoot-first player that always seems to play for themselves, but that's how the team is built, so that's how they're going to play.
7. Andrei Kirilenko
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It's not so much that the Minnesota Timberwolves are asking Andrei Kirilenko to do too much for the team, it's just that the injuries have piled so high that the team has no chance if Kirilenko doesn't do everything.
After injuries to Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio before the season started, Minnesota has seen JJ Barea, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Nikola Pekovic go down with various bumps and bruises. That means six of their seven best players are currently not playing.
Who does that leave but Andrei Kirilenko to do nearly everything.
Kirilenko has done a very fine job with the team so far. He's their second-leading scorer and their leading rebounder to go along with nearly four assists a game and almost two each of blocks and steals.
6. Kobe Bryant
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You'd think that on a team with four legitimate superstars (although Steve Nash is down) Kobe Bryant could take a bit of a break from being the go-to guy in Los Angeles' offense. To a point that has happened, as Dwight Howard has taken over the game a time or two, but so far it's been more of the same old Kobe.
He's leading the Lakers in scoring, taking six more shots than any other player, playing excellent defense, shooting the lights out and being the floor general more recently.
Ever since Nash went down, Kobe was expected to take more control of the offense, but then Steve Blake went down and Kobe had to go further. In the past few games he's had a downright LeBronian influence in the offense.
Hopefully Nash can get back soon so Kobe can get a bit of a break, but that's going to be at least another week.
5. Greg Monroe
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There's nobody else in Detroit that knows how to play defense in the post. Jason Maxiell works hard at times and Andre Drummond's bipolar basketball-playing self gets a block here and there. Aside from that, it's all Greg Monroe.
Even worse, Greg Monroe is leading the team in scoring and the next guy is a full four points per game behind him. His 15.4 points may not seem like much, but for a team that's only scoring 91 points per game it's quite a big portion.
Monroe's sudden increase in shots isn't serving his shot percentage well, as he's shooting just 45 percent so far this season. Of course, when you've got a starting guard shooting 28 percent, anything above 35 is going to look downright Wilt Chamberlain-ish.
4. David West
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Indiana is fundamentally flawed at this point without Danny Granger on the floor. They've tried to find other options, and so far Paul George hasn't come close to filling in that role yet.
What has ended up happening is the Pacers started sending the ball into David West endlessly, and that's the option they've gone with.
Already this season West is averaging 16 points per game and doing that on 16 shots per game. Historically, West has been a second option in the offense, and he really works out better as a third option, so seeing him shoot so much is alarming.
Not only that, West is shooting a career-low percentage at just 42 percent after shooting nearly 50 percent last season.
3. Jrue Holiday
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With Andrew Bynum out the 76ers knew they were going to have to find scoring in other places, unfortunately they've found it all in one other place.
The focus on Jrue Holiday offensively has led to games living and dying on his jumper, and with a young guard the jumper is usually too inconsistent for a team to win many games with him leading the way.
On top of Holiday's 19 points per game, he's also averaging nine assists, both of which are around six more than the next closest scorer or passer. Thaddeus Young is trailing with 13.9 points and Evan Turner is bringing up second place with a measly 3.6 dimes.
With Bynum seemingly out until December at the soonest, it looks like it's going to be rough waters for Philadelphia for a while.
2. Kyrie Irving
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Few people in the league do more for their team than Kyrie Irving, but thankfully for him Andreson Varejao is playing excellent beside him this season. If it weren't for Andy, Cleveland would probably be winless through eight games.
It's quite evident that every time the Cavs hit the floor it's going to take a big night from Kyrie, to the tune of at least 25 points and six assists, for Cleveland to have a shot at winning—and that's if Andy plays well and Dion Waiters decides to make some threes.
Kyrie is currently leading the 2-6 Cavs with 24 points per game (nine more than second-place Anderson Varejao) and 6.5 assists (three more than second-place Andy).
When you've got a budding superstar playing with a team that goes four players deep, there's usually going to be some kind of trouble along the way.
1. James Harden
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There's no team in the league that lives and dies more on one player's back than the Houston Rockets. If Harden's on then they've got a chance to win, if not then it's going to be a surprise to see them come out on top.
Harden has nearly 100 points more than the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 25.9 points to Chandler Parsons' 12.3.
On top of the scoring load, Harden is expected to come in and average around five rebounds and five assists for the team to have any shot at winning. If the league were to take count of hockey assists (passes that lead to assists), Harden would probably lead the league, as he's almost always the offensive initiator.
Houston's games usually depend on how well Harden is running the floor alongside Jeremy Lin, and if the two aren't in synch, or teams are stepping in between or in front of them, then they're in big trouble.