Ever since James Harden and Mike D’Antoni teamed up in Houston prior to the 2016-17 season, they have made pure, utter magic together. Two years ago, I made this video about Harden having what I believed to be the greatest regular season of offense in the history of hoops.
Now, after the way he’s playing, we have to talk about him once again. With Chris Paul sidelined much of the year, Harden’s been doing things on a basketball court that have never been done before, and will almost certainly never be done again.
Here are all the statistical ways to explain his absurd 2018-19 season.
(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated as we find more.)
1. Harden dropped 30+ points for 32 consecutive games between Dec. 13 and Feb. 21. No one but Wilt Chamberlain, who put up massive numbers in the ‘60s while feasting on centers who would have desk jobs today, has ever scored 30+ points in more than 18 consecutive NBA games.
2. In the last 15 years, no one else has scored 30+ points in more than 12 consecutive games.
3. In the month between Dec. 13, 2018 and Jan. 13, 2019, Harden went 16 consecutive games with at least 30 points and 5 assists. That is the longest streak ever.
4. And by a huge margin, too. Since Gerald Ford took office, the next-longest streak of a player dropping more than 30 points with 5 assists in a game belongs to Tracy McGrady, with seven games. This may be more unbreakable than Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak.
5. Want a larger sample? From a 20-game stretch between Dec. 15 and Jan. 23, Harden scored 856 points, an average of 42.8 per game. That is more points than anyone other than Chamberlain has scored over any 20-game stretch.
6. Harden was wildly efficient during that run, posting an effective field goal percentage of .539. That doesn’t even include his occasional trip charity stripe along the way.
7. Over the last dozen seasons, the largest 20-game scoring output by anyone else was when Kevin Durant dropped 714 points across these 20 games during his 2013-14 MVP season.
8. But Durant only averaged 35.7 points per game over that stretch. Harden’s 20-game bender was over seven (7) points per game better than the largest 20-game scoring stretch authored by anyone else in the last dozen years.
9. Harden could’ve been held scoreless over his next four games, and he’d still have put together a larger 24-game scoring output than anyone else has had since the start of the ’07-’08 season (but even though he could have scored 0 across the ensuing four games, in reality he scored 142)
10. No one else has scored as many points in any 26-game stretch this season as Harden did in his magical 20.
11. The most points anyone other than Harden has scored over 20 games this season were the 652 notched by Paul George between Jan. 2nd and Feb. 11th. That’s an average of 32.6 points per game.
12. So Harden’s 20-game stretch saw him score more than 10 additional points per game than the largest 20-game scoring stretch from anyone else this season.
13. He supplemented those 856 points with 165 assists, or, 8.3 per game. He is the only person to ever reach both those marks across 20 games in NBA history.
14. Of all the times someone dished even 100 dimes in a 20-game stretch (5 per game) over the past 45 years, the largest scoring output was the 38.6 points per game Michael Jordan averaged here.
15. If you knock that up to players who averaged six assists per game — still well below Harden’s 8.3 — the largest 20-game scoring output by anyone else was the 36.8 points Jordan and Tracy McGrady each averaged.
16. Factoring in passing, nobody since Tiny Archibald in the ‘72-’73 season has put together a 20-game run even approaching the combination of 42.8 points and 8.3 assists Harden averaged during that superb stretch of hoops.
17. (Harden also happened to drop 50 points and 11 assists vs. the Lakers in the game immediately preceding said stretch, but keeping it across 20 games maintains a round number, and John Q. Public loves round numbers).
18. If we wanna expand the sample even further to a stretch of 30 games, Harden scored 1,244 points (41.5 per game) between Dec. 13th and Feb. 11th. Not only is he the only player since Wilt to top 40 points/game over a stretch as lengthy as 30 games, but in the past half-century not even the runner-up was within 100 points of Harden.
19. Over the last dozen seasons, the largest 30-game scoring output by anyone else was when Kevin Durant dropped 1,054 points (35.1 per game) across these 30 games during his 2013-14 MVP season.
20. The most points anyone other than Harden has scored over 30 games this season were the 985 (32.8 per game) notched by Paul George between Dec. 15th and Feb. 22th.
21. No one else this season has had a 39-game stretch with as many points as Harden in those 30.
22. He had an eFG% of .546 across those 30 games.
23. From Dec. 13 thru the end of the season, Harden had five 40-point triple-doubles. The entire rest of the NBA combined for four such games for the entire season.
24. From January 14th until midway thru the 1st quarter on January 27th, Harden went 87 buckets in a row without being assisted by a teammate.
25. In the month of January, Harden averaged 43.6 points per game over 14games. That was the highest-scoring month by anyone not named Wilt Chamberlain in NBA history, according to NBA.com’s Micah Adams.
26. For the season, 13.0% of his buckets were assisted (compared to 59.8% of overall buckets scored in the ‘18-’19 season being assisted).
27. Harden made only 83 assisted three-pointers all year, compared to 295 unassisted three-pointers.
28. Stephen Curry is a few years away from setting the record for most career three-pointers made, and he owns pretty much every other 3-point record. But even Curry has never hit 100 treys in as short a period as Harden did, in this span of just 16 games.
29. If you considered Stepback James Harden a single player, he’d rank 11th in three-point percentage this season.
30. Only three of the 10 players ahead of him — Stephen Curry, Buddy Hield, and Tobias Harris — have taken more total three-point attempts than Stepback James Harden.
31. Harden scored 14.6 points per game just on pull-up shots. Kemba Walker (10.5) was the only other player in double-digits.
32. Harden scored 50+ points in nine games this season. If he were instead held to a goose egg instead of dropping 50+ in those games, he’d still have comfortably led the league in points per game.
33. Daryl Morey’s philosophy is to eschew mid-range jumpers for paint shots and threes. On the season, less than three percent of Harden’s points have come from the mid-range.
34. In a Jan. 23 win over the Knicks, Harden took 20 threes while shooting 25 free throws. No one else that’s ever taken 20 threes in a game has also taken even half as many free throws.
35. There have been 22 individual seasons of a player exceeding a usage rate of 35 — meaning they end more than 35 percent of their team’s possessions via a shot, free throw, or turnover while on the floor. Harden’s true shooting percentage was well north of 60 percent. Of all the others, Bernard King is the only player to even top a 57.5 true shooting percentage.