NBA

Harden to Nets: How former NBA MVP fits alongside Durant and Irving in Stats Perform data

By Sports Desk January 14, 2021

The James Harden saga is set to end.

Harden will reportedly swap the Houston Rockets for the Brooklyn Nets in a mega trade, reuniting with Kevin Durant and teaming up with Kyrie Irving.

The Philadelphia 76ers were reportedly frontrunners to prise the former NBA MVP to the 'City of Brotherly Love', but Daryl Morey refused to part with franchise pillar Ben Simmons and others.

Instead, the Nets reportedly sent Caris LeVert – later traded to the Indiana Pacers as Victor Oladipo was dealt to the Rockets – and four first-round draft picks, plus four pick swaps, to Houston, in a deal also involving the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Nets also gave up Taurean Prince and talented center Jarrett Allen, who were sent to the Cavaliers, and Rockets-bound forward Rodions Kurucs.

It puts an end to a messy divorce between Harden and Rockets, after the disgruntled eight-time All-Star made no secret of his desire to depart as his frustrations boiled over post-game on Tuesday – sparking criticism from team-mates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

Attention now turns to Brooklyn's new super team and how Harden fits alongside Durant and Irving – if and when he returns from his personal absence – in first-year head coach Steve Nash's quest to deliver a championship to the Nets.

Harden, who is eyeing a maiden NBA title, had called Houston home since 2012, guiding the Rockets to two Western Conference Finals and three semi-final appearances after his acquisition from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The 31-year-old sharpshooter – team-mates with Durant at the Thunder between 2009 and 2012 – brings a high volume of three-point and free-throw attempts to Brooklyn, not to mention a dominant scorer, which the Nets have rarely had.

Harden attempted the most three-pointers in 2019-20 with 843, and he also topped the free-throw attempts category at 800. Prince topped Brooklyn's 3PA list with 431, while Spencer Dinwiddie stepped to the line on 446 occasions.

In terms of individual seasons averaging 30.0-plus points, Harden boasts three seasons, while Durant has two. The Nets? 0. John Williamson's high of 29.5 points per game in 1977-78 (in just 33 games) is the closest.

In each of the past three seasons heading into the 2020-21 campaign, Harden had earned the NBA scoring title. Durant has claimed four honours, compared to the Nets' all-time haul of 0 after Keith Van Horn finished fifth in 1998-99. Harden and Durant have won seven of the past 11 scoring crowns.

Harden brings a resume with a lot of wins and postseason experience, as did Irving and Durant as former NBA champions with the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors respectively. The Nets have lost in the first round in back-to-back seasons, while not since 2003 have they featured in the Finals.

Harden boasts a team win percentage of 64.9 in regular-season games in which he has played, while he has amassed 128 playoff appearances.

The issue of Harden signing for the Nets is centred on possession and distribution, given he, Durant and Irving are ball carriers.

Looking at the highest usage percentage – an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor – since 2014-15 to get an idea of how the Nets could make it work with the trio, and Harden (second, 35.3 per cent), Durant (eighth, 29.6 per cent) and Irving (ninth, 29.4 per cent) rank in the top 10. The NBA average is 20.0 per cent.

In 2019-20, points scored by Harden and points scored off his assists averaged 52.4 per game. It followed 53.9 in 2018-19, 51.3 in 2017-18 and 56 the season previous.

That marked four successive seasons with 50-plus points per game created, tying Oscar Robertson (1963-64 to 1966-67) for the longest streak in NBA history.

Harden averaged 34.3 points, 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds per regular-season game for the Rockets, who lost in the Western Conference semi-finals at Walt Disney World Resort, in 2019-20.

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    Much has changed in the past 12 months but one thing that has stayed the same is the mind-boggling brilliance of Erling Haaland.

    It has been exactly 12 months since the Norway striker made his debut for Borussia Dortmund following a big-money move from Salzburg.

    Haaland came off the bench against Augsburg on that occasion after 56 minutes and scored a hat-trick in a 5-3 win, offering a taste of things to come.

    Here, we have crunched the Opta numbers to highlight just how brilliant Haaland has been.

    Haaland competing with the best

    If you're a football fan, the only way you could have not spotted Haaland's meteoric rise over the last year is if you live under the proverbial rock.

    Indeed, using data across all competitions for the top-five European leagues since his Dortmund debut, only two players can better his tally of 35 goals. 

    Prepare to be shocked here (Narrator: there is zero shock value involved), those players were Robert Lewandowski (49) and Cristiano Ronaldo (40).

    Ciro Immobile, Romelu Lukaku (each 33) and Lionel Messi (29) all trail Haaland, and when we view the numbers through a different lens his past 12 months become even more impressive.

    Both Lewandowski (42) and Ronaldo (40) started more games than Haaland's 29. When looking at goals scored per 90 minutes, the Dortmund's star has 1.18 compared to 1.15 for Lewandowski, and 0.99 for Ronaldo. Surprisingly, Luis Muriel 1.57 heads the way here.

    What is even more startling is the fact Haaland had 102 shots (including blocks) during this period, way down on Messi (253), Ronaldo (235) and Lewandowski (180).

    Indeed, his goals have come from only 58 shots on target. Messi (115), Lewandowski (90) and Ronaldo (85) again head these metrics.

    When looking at shots on target per 90, Haaland (1.96) ranks below Muriel (3.14), Messi (2.53), Kylian Mbappe (2.15), Lewandowski and Ronaldo (each 2.11).

    No one can better Haaland's shot-conversion rate of 34.31 (Lewandowski for comparison is fifth on 27.22), and while Lewandowski (40) and Ronaldo (29) beat the 28 'big chances' he has scored, both have a lower 'big-chance' conversion rate (55.56 and 52.73 to Haaland's 60.87).

    And when it comes to goals/minutes ratio, Haaland's 76.26 is beaten only by Muriel's 55.33. Lewandowski (78.37) and Ronaldo (90.68) are next on the list.

    Bundesliga defences taken to Haal-and back

    May we all take a brief moment to show our thoughts for Bundesliga defences, who have been given a torrid time by Lewandowski over the past year.

    Okay, that's long enough…

    If we crunch similar numbers for goals across all competitions for just Bundesliga strikers, it's not exactly hard to see why Haaland has been such a big star in Germany's top flight.

    While Lewandowski's 49 goals remain a high, Haaland's 35 is still comfortably better than Andre Silva (26) and Wout Weghorst (24).

    The 1.18 goals per 90 minutes is a best among strikers playing in Germany. Lewandowski is of course close behind, but the next best are Lucas Alario (0.86), Andrej Kramaric (0.8) and Silva (0.76).

    Lewandowski (180), Serge Gnabry (112) and Silva (110) have all taken more shots but only Lewandowski's 90 on target beats Haaland's 58. Weghorst (53), Gnabry (52) and Silva (51) are not too far behind.

    Silva (22) and Weghorst (21) have each scored fewer of their 'big chances', while only three players have a higher 'big-chance' conversion among Bundesliga players.

    In terms of goals/minute ratio – Haaland and Lewandowski are the only players below 100. Alario (105.22), Kramaric (112.25) and Silva (117.88) are way off the pace of the superstar duo.

    The main takeaway from all of this is Haaland has been sensational over the past 12 months.

  • Rashford can improve to be England and Man Utd great, says Robson Rashford can improve to be England and Man Utd great, says Robson

    Marcus Rashford still has 5-10 per cent improvement to make as he approaches the prime of his career, according to former Manchester United and England captain Bryan Robson.

    Rashford made it five games without a goal in 2021 as Premier League leaders United played out a goalless draw with champions Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

    Nevertheless, the England forward is enjoying a productive season with 14 goals and six assists in all competitions.

    The 23-year-old has only bettered that goal tally once across the course of an entire campaign, with 22 last term bolstered by six conversions from eight Premier League penalties - duties that now lie with Bruno Fernandes.

    He netted one spot kick in the 4-1 Champions League win over Istanbul Basaksehir this time around and his 12 open-play goals in Europe's elite competition and the Premier League came from shots with a cumulative xG value of eight - highlighting some impressive efficiency in front of goal.

    "Marcus is getting to an age where he’s maturing and will come to his prime soon," Robson told Stats Perform News.

    "I think he’s really improved over the last two years. He's worked really hard on his physique and fitness. But I do believe there’s another 5-10 percent in Marcus.

    "When things get easy for him in games he becomes a little bit lazy on the ball and gives it away more than he should.

    "But that’s probably because we know he can create with a great pass, and sometimes when you're that little bit younger you don't have that real strong mentality to go further.

    "I think he can go on to be a great player for Man United and England."

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    The France international has five goals in 22 games, with just two in 14 in the Premier League.

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    "It was a long season for a few of the lads," he said. "It took a few of them quite a time to get going, they had no pre-season after Sevilla loss.

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  • Spot-on Pereira punishes Wolves, more Yorkshire gains for Kane - the Premier League weekend's quirky facts Spot-on Pereira punishes Wolves, more Yorkshire gains for Kane - the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

    Willy Boly had an eventful derby and there was a penalty double for Matheus Pereira as West Brom boss Sam Allardyce maintained his unbeaten record against the team he used to support as a boy.

    Albion claimed a huge victory in their bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League at Molineux on Saturday, beating bitter rivals Wolves 3-2.

    There was no such entertainment at Anfield on Sunday, with a hugely hyped clash between Liverpool and leaders Manchester United ending goalless, while Antonee Robinson's red card was costly as Fulham were beaten by Chelsea.

    Ilkay Gundogan matched his best Manchester City goal tally for a season in a 4-0 rout of Crystal Palace, while Tottenham captain Harry Kane made his mark in Yorkshire yet again 

    With the help of Opta data, we take a look at some of the quirkiest stats from the top-flight action over the weekend.

     

    Boly in thick of the action as Wolves pay the penalty 

    West Brom ended an eight-match winless run to claim three precious points against their big rivals Wolves.

    Defender Boly became the first Wolves player to concede a penalty, provide an assist and score in a Premier League game since Adlene Guedioura in May 2011 - which was also against West Brom at Molineux.

    Baggies midfielder Pereira was on target with two spot-kicks, becoming the fifth player to score a brace of penalties in a top-flight game this season. The last time there were so many penalty doubles was back in the 2010-11 campaign.

    Allardyce was a Wolves fan as a youngster, but his allegiances have long gone out of the window, as the Albion head coach has not lost in 12 Premier League games against Wanderers - his longest unbeaten streak against any side.

     

    Gun firing on all cylinders

    Kevin De Bruyne sparkled once again as in-form City hammered Palace to go second in the table.

    The midfield maestro laid on one of two goals for John Stones, taking his tally of assists for City to a landmark 100.

    Gundogan is another midfielder who has caught the eye this season and the Germany international was on target with a sublime long-range finish at the Etihad Stadium.

    The former Borussia Dortmund playmaker has scored four goals in his past six Premier League games, as many as he could muster in his previous 55 matches in the top flight. His tally of six for the season is the joint-most he has scored for City.

     

    Kane comes up smelling of White Roses again

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    Dire States: Rash Robinson costs Fulham

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    Robinson was the eighth player from the United States to be given his marching orders in the Premier League.

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