James Harden is now lighting it up in Houston and Thunder fans are left to wonder what walked out their door. There is little time left to ponder the what if's however, because walking in the door is former Rockets guard Kevin Martin, who is no slouch at scoring the ball. How do they stack up?
One thing that is commonly overlooked in shooting evaluations is the basic ability to get shots. Dunks and layups are the most efficient shots on the floor, but for most players, they are hard to come by. Harden is great not just because he makes shots at high rates, but also because he creates the type of shots convertible at those rates. Not many guards in the NBA can generate effective close-range chances in the face of the defense as frequently as Harden, and this area represents the biggest gap between Harden and probable replacement Kevin Martin. Last season, 42 percent of Harden's field goal attempts were close to the rim, and he made 62 percent of them. For Martin, only 20 percent of his field goals were in this area, and he made only 53 percent of them. This means fewer layups, dunks, and free throws for the Thunder, but more for the Rockets.
Head over to Goldsberry's great charts to get a clear look at the real difference between the two players. Harden, either by design or by instinct, knows how to work for the most valuable shots on the court.
Can Martin do the same?