Brooklyn Nets: Is James Harden’s start to the season concerning?

James Harden Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
James Harden Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Is James Harden’s slow start to the season that concerning of a trend for the Brooklyn Nets? 

James Harden is averaging a post-OKC Thunder career-low in all facets of scoring, his defense isn’t better, and looks bloated. With one superstar guard out indefinitely and the other being James Harden, do Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets have cause for concern?

One thing to consider is that Steve Nash’s offense, and Harden’s role in it, are doing him no favors.

Harden is still recovering from his hamstring injury last year, and league changes to foul drawing rules have taken away his bread and butter. All of this means his heavy-iso style is paying smaller dividends because of factors mostly out of his control. His physical conditioning will improve, allowing him to blow past more defenders, and he will hone new crafty moves that mostly compensate for the league’s rule changes.

Last season, coach Nash did a good job putting together interesting lineups that – when Kyrie Irving and James Harden played together, the ball movement and offensive flow looked crisp. Harden optimists were proven right. That hasn’t been the case this year.

Regardless of minutes or role promised to Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Paul Millsap in the offseason, the coach simply has to prioritize ball movement and energy, in lineups both with and without the two available Nets superstars.

It’s not yet time for the Nets to worry about James Harden’s slow start, but it is time to make intentional systemic changes to the team offense, because Harden may be slightly past his physical peak, but also because more of a Spurs-esq motion offense will make everyone better.

One thing a friend suggested is that Harden adjust his shot selection toward pre-Mike D’Antoni levels when he would feast on off-the-dribble-threes and layups, but also embrace spot-up 3’s taking open midrange shots. I believe Harden is a smart enough player with a smart enough coach to at least do a few of these things.

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Will Harden return to being a top 5 or 7 player this year? I think the answer is probably no, but he will be in that next tier, giving the Nets as good a chance as any team to win the title.