James Harden Still Has Plenty to Learn as Primary Option for Houston Rockets

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterNovember 29, 2012

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 12:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets reacts to a call in the fourth quarter of the game against the Miami Heat at the Toyota Center on November 12, 2012 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

It's rare for a third option to suddenly be given primary scoring responsibilities on a daily basis.

Usually the marketing coordinator doesn't get promoted to president until the current one steps down and the VP gets fired for sending self-pictures to an intern. Or something like that.

But Harden was thrust into the role without notice, and for the most part, he has ran with it.

Although Wednesday night against his old team, James Harden looked like someone unqualified for the top-gun position.

Which isn't to say he's incapable of being that guy. Through 15 games he's averaging 24.5 points and 9.5 free throw attempts per game, numbers that reflect a top-notch primary scoring option.

But it's only his first month on the job, and he's learning in the process.

The first scoring option has a self-explanatory label—for the majority of possessions throughout a 48-minute game, he's the preferred choice to get the first look.

Harden's strengths as a scorer center around his ability to create offense off the dribble, whether it's finishing at the rim, pulling up or scoring in bunches from the perimeter. By knowing how and when to use all the tricks in his bag, Harden will put himself in the best position to convert a high number of field goals, given he has the green light to shoot throughout the game.

It didn't go well for Harden against his old team. It was that high school reunion in which all your former classmates looked skinnier and more successful. Harden had his worst outing of the year, shooting 3-for-16 from the floor in a blowout loss.

He didn't wisely pick and choose when to attack and when to settle. Below is video of three bad decisions Harden made as an on-ball scorer.

The first shot was a force, while the next two misses resulted from poor recognition of floor spacing. He could have gotten easier looks with more poise.

Understandably looking to make a statement, Harden was noticeably pressing.

Here's an example of Harden's second miss from the video above, passing up an easy shot for a difficult one.

Isolated on the wing, Harden has an entire half court of space to work with. Instead of taking advantage of this, Harden decides to drive the ball into traffic, where there stood a rim protector and help defender. Whether he was lacking confidence in his jumper or just didn't recognize what he had, Harden made the wrong decision as a scorer here.

It's obviously just one example, but it shows he still has work to do picking and choosing his spots as a scorer.

Harden's aggressiveness is admirable. Rather then settling for the jumper, he routinely looks to attack the rim, draw contact and get to the line. But knowing how and when to use every weapon in the arsenal, in this case the pull-up jumper, will maximize his effectiveness as a primary scoring option.