Mike D’Antoni has been around the block as an NBA head coach, with stints with the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and now the Houston Rockets.
He has coached some of the greatest players of the past 15 years in the NBA including Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and others.
Of all those players he says his current MVP candidate is at the top of the list
Here is what he told reporters after the Rockets 115-111 victory in Portland:
“Harden is the best offensive player I have ever seen”
That is high praise from one of the offensive masterminds in NBA history and someone who has coached two former NBA MVPs in Nash and Kobe.
Harden is having the best season of his career, averaging 31.2 points, 8.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds with a player efficiency rating of 30.6 while leading the NBA leading Rockets.
He uses his footwork, power, athleticism, angles, ball handling and craftiness to score or create scoring opportunities at will and makes it look easier than almost any star ever has.
D’Antoni went further into his praise of Harden’s special ability:
Here is from a USA Today piece by Sam Amick:
“He’s a hell of a player, first off,” D’Antoni said when asked to explain his declaration. “It’s a combination of everything. There are other players who might be better at this, or a little bit better at that. But when you put everything together, and the way he passes, the way he sees teammates, the way he can lob, the way he can fight through a foul. I mean even on an off night, he’s probably getting 30, 40 points, and I mean efficiently. And he doesn’t even have anything going. But he’s so efficient, and he gets other guys involved. … He’s got one flaw. He does get tired some. He’s mortal. And that’s it. Other than that …”
Harden is likely the most dangerous and difficult to prepare for offensive stud in the NBA at the moment with his ability to dissect a defense with his shooting, slashing, step back moves and elite vision.
He is an evolution of Steve Nash in D’Antoni’s offense, if not quite the passer.
But is he a better offensive player than Kobe?
Since joining Houston his PER is slightly higher than Kobe in his prime, his offensive box plus/minus is almost twice as high and his three point shooting percentage is five percent better.
By the numbers, James Harden is in fact the best offensive player that Mike D’Antoni has ever coached, as wild as that is.