James Harden, the Houston Rockets’ leading scorer four seasons running, is changing positions, his head coach Mike D’Antoni said on Monday.
Harden has played shooting guard since he entered the league seven years ago, but to help dictate the Rockets new up-tempo offense, he will be making the move to point guard this season.
The idea is to get the ball into his hands more this year than he has had it in the past, allowing him to make more plays and set up more plays at the top of the key.
Patrick Beverley had been the team’s go-to point guard for the past three seasons, but he will most likely just switch positions with Harden this year.
An article from ESPN noted the Rockets don’t think this will be a major adjustment for Harden, since his 32.5 percent usage rate last year was a career-high.
“He’s more or less responsible giving rhythm to the team, that’s what a point guard does,” D’Antoni said in the same ESPN article. “He’s going to be on the ball and he’s going to be distributing the ball and it will take some adjusting. He’s got a lot more responsibilities as a point guard. A playcaller, a good basketball mind, he’s already telling guys we can do this we can do that.”
His teammates seem to agree.
The team’s power forward Ryan Anderson, who will be in his first season with the Rockets, said the prospect of playing with a player like Harden, regardless of position, excites him.
“James is so dynamic,” Anderson said at the Rockets’ Media Day on Monday. “His ability to get to the rim and create fouls and create shots for everyone else is like nobody I’ve ever played on the same team with. He’s a guy that I’m really excited to move forward and keep playing with… He finds guys, so he’s done a great job of kicking the ball out and making the right decisions and the right plays.”
Harden has proven he’s one of the best scorers in the game, but now that he has the ball in his hands more, he can be directly responsible for setting up the offense to help the team improve from a dismal 41-41 record last year.
Though the team performed poorly, Harden had his best season.
He averaged a career-highs in points (29.0), assists (7.5), three pointers made (2.9), minutes (38.1) and games played (82).
The 27-year-old said he expects the opposing team’s shooting guards will match up with him on defense, something he also hopes will spread the floor.
The position switch itself doesn’t seem to be worrying him.
When asked if he should now consider himself a point guard, he replied quite simply, “No, I’m a basketball player.”
The Rockets kick off their regular season on Oct. 26 at the Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers.