Nov 12, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) is defended by Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) in the fourth quarter at the Toyota Center. The Heat defeated the Rockets 113-110. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
James Harden is widely recognized as the best shooting guard in the NBA.
But LeBron James is the best overall, even at Harden’s own position.
Harden and the Houston Rockets play a different brand of basketball than the Miami Heat because Houston focuses on the run-and-gun style. The Heat, though not afraid to run, like to stress defense.
The Rockets score the third most points in the league.
But LeBron still averages more points per game than Harden.
Harden has the ball in his hands just as much as LeBron. LeBron averages 6.9 drives per game, Harden 6.7.
But LeBron kills Harden in field-goal percentages of those drives 65.2 percent to 47.9.
Harden averages more minutes.
LeBron averages six more passes per game.
And more assists.
And less turnovers.
See what I’m getting at?
The best shooting guard in the league may not be the best shooting guard in the league, after all.
LeBron James Shot Distribution
Who’s actually surprised here? We’re talking about LeBron James, debatably the best athlete in the history of man.
Just under half of LeBron’s shots are right at the rim. Over 10 percent come from near or at the block, while over 17 percent come from outside the paint or inside the three-point line; around 20 percent of his shots are from deep.
Based on the above stats, LeBron James is beyond efficient.
James Harden Shot Distribution
Around 38 percent of Harden’s shots are at the rim. Over 10 percent come from near or at the block, while 17 percent come from inside the three-point line; around 20 percent of his shots are from deep.
The latter may be more of a line for a shooting guard, but that doesn’t automatically make Harden a better shooting guard, not by any means. He may shoot like a shooting guard, but let’s compare their field-goal percentages.
James Harden Shot Performance
The Beard averages just under 60 percent at the rim—that is great; 33-41 percent at the block, that’s fine for a guard. Lastly, he shoots around 35 percent from deep—perfectly acceptable.
What about LeBron?
Lebron James Shot Performance
A 76 percent field-goal percentage at the rim, 45-50 percent at the block (but 29 at the top of the key), and 30-37 percent from deep.
Harden just can’t win.
Feb 6 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) drives to the basket as Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) defends during the second half at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 114-108. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Speaking of winning, how about win shares?
This is a metric that estimates the amount of wins a certain player gets his team.
LBJ averages more offensive, defensive and overall win shares.
True shooting percentage? LeBron.
Effective field-goal percentage? LBJ, again.
Jan 22, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) blocks a shot attempt by Sacramento Kings small forward Travis Outlaw (25) during the second half at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Kings 119-98. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron may be a better shooting guard than the Rockets’ best, but he’s not a better center than their own superstar big man Dwight Howard, right?
93 percent of DH’s shots are at the rim. That leaves seven percent for shots at the block.
Does that sound like a center with an array of post moves? Or a center with a shooting touch that goes beyond two feet? Does that look like an even shot distribution, even for a defensive center?
We already examined The King’s shot chart.
But, this time, he’s not going to win that easily.
Dwight Howard kills LBJ on offensive, defensive and total rebound rates; defensive win shares, too.
Especially when comparing LeBron and Howard, defense is an important statistic. Both are perennial candidates for Defensive Player of the Year, but in terms of the center position, Superman has Batman beat.
LeBron averages more steals per game than his defensive rival, but he simply cannot match the impact that Howard brings to the paint. Howard may block more shots per game than LeBron, but what’s even more important is the amount of shots D12 affects, purely just from his presence. That cannot be matched.
Get out of here, LeBron; not this time.
The Chosen One may be better than The Bearded One at his own position, but at center, the Houston Rockets have their own Chosen One, and his name is Dwight Howard.