Is Harden really a No. 1 option?

Beyond his hot start in Houston, Harden excels against elite competition

Updated: November 6, 2012, 3:17 PM ET
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider
James HardenRick Osentoski/US PresswireJames Harden, now a No. 1 option, is putting up huge numbers for the Rockets.

Should we have seen this coming?

After coming off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder and having to share the ball with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, James Harden is flourishing in his role as the Houston Rockets' No. 1 option. He is averaging a staggering 35.3 points per game on 52.9 percent shooting while dishing out 6.3 assists and grabbing 6.3 boards. His player efficiency rating (PER) was 26.0.

Three games in and everyone wants to know: Is "Beardsanity" a fluke or is it for real?

My answer: Harden has done this before, so we shouldn't be surprised by his dominance. Plus, we've been blinded by our undying reverence for per-game averages and the star talents of Durant and Westbrook.

Harden's average of 16.8 points per game last season doesn't scream "bona fide NBA star," but it also tells us next to nothing about his ability to be a No. 1 option.


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