Where’s the Beard? It’s not in the midrange.Jun 05
James Harden made three enormous shots last night in the 4th quarter. Unsurprisingly, these shots came from the wings beyond the arc; 2 from the left wing, 1 from the right.
James Harden is a great 3-point shooter. He shot 39% from 3-point range during the regular season, and that number has climbed to 42.3% during the postseason. The graphic below reveals where he shoots most, and how well in shoots in different zones:
As you can see he loves to shoot beyond the arc, but especially on the wings. His favorite 3-point shooting location is along the right wing, where he attempted over 80 field goals this year; however, this is not his most efficient area. In fact, of the 8 three-point areas above, Harden is more effective in 6 zones where he shoots much less frequently. In this sense his 3-point shooting isn’t aligned. Overall, Harden is about a 40% 3-point shooter, but where he shoots the most he only shoots 32.5%. Like many good shooters he is most efficient in the corners, but does not get many attempts there.
Speaking of not many attempts, the most startling thing about Harden’s shooting chart is just how inactive he is in the midrange. He only shot 72 times in the midrange during the regular season this year, or about one time per game. This accounts for only about 10% of his shooting. In short, Harden does not shoot midrange shots very often. He is very active at the rim, and very active behind the arc, but hardly every active in midrange. The following chart re-affirms that visually by showing his most common shooting locations:
The image reveals just how bipolar his game is; he loves close range and he loves 3-point range, but there are very few spots in the midrange where he is active. One exception is the area off the left elbow, where he takes a few pull-up jumpers. In fact, he made 1 17-foot jumper in that spot last night.
Harden’s overall heat chart reveals that he is a very efficient scorer in the places where he is active.
The graphic shows a lot of orange and red, and very little blue, indicating that he is efficient in many more places than he is inefficient. The only blue areas we see are in the midrange, but as we know, he is rarely active there.
In a way Harden reminds me a bit of Chris Paul in the sense that his proficiency behind the arc requires defenders to play close there, which in turn opens up penetration opportunities. This is a trait that many of the league’s best driving players have in common. It’s not just that they are fast and incredible in traffic, it’s also that defenses have to defend them in a way that enables that first step toward the basket.