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[Wall Street Journal]: James Harden’s Stepback 3-Pointer Is a Step Ahead of the NBA

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Bob Barker 007, Mar 29, 2018.

  1. Bob Barker 007

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    WSJ: James Harden’s Stepback 3-Pointer Is a Step Ahead of the NBA

    The formatting is a little weird. I highly recommend looking at the charts and videos at the article link.
    Article Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/james-...nba-1522333213?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=1

    Houston

    The most spectacular play of this NBA season began like so many other Houston Rockets possessions. James Harden isolated his defender on the perimeter. The Rockets spread themselves across the court to let him do the one thing he does better than anyone in the history of basketball.

    Before he could take yet another stepback 3-pointer, though, something oddly exciting happened: absolutely nothing.

    Harden lowered his right shoulder, drove to his left, stopped and inched behind the 3-point line. But he didn’t shoot. He stared. Los Angeles Clippers forward Wesley Johnson was supposed to be guarding him. Instead he was on the court splayed like a crab. Harden’s stepback gave him enough time and space to glare at Johnson for two full seconds before he finally deigned to shoot.



    It was the perfect encapsulation of a season in which Harden has stumbled upon a weaponthe rest of the NBA is powerless to stop. Harden’s stepback 3-pointer is as revolutionary as Stephen Curry’s deep, off-the-dribble 3-pointer. It’s a shot that’s basically unguardable. It’s the reason he’s likely to be the league’s most valuable player. It’s something extraordinary that only he could make ordinary.

    “He’s a step ahead of the game,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.

    Harden takes more stepback 3-pointers than any NBA player. But that doesn’t even begin to describe how much of an outlier this shot makes him. Because it doesn’t make sense to compare him with NBA players. Harden has attempted more stepback 3-pointers this year than any NBA team.

    There are six whole teams that haven’t taken as many combined as Harden has taken by himself. The league average this season excluding the Rockets is 60. The Denver Nuggets lead the NBA with 113. James Harden alone has attempted 157.

    “It’s actually crazy,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said.

    A Step Ahead
    No team in the NBA takes as many stepback 3-pointers as James Harden—and few make a higher percentage.
    [​IMG]
    Note: Data are through Tuesday.

    Source: NBA

    Here’s what’s especially crazy: not how many Harden takes but how many Harden makes.

    These are shots that require him to be fading away from the basket several feet behind the line with a hand in his face and some impossibly large man lunging at him. And yet Harden is shooting a remarkable 45.9% on his stepback 3-pointers. He’s shooting 32.5% on his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, according to NBA data, and even on his open 3-pointers he’s only shooting 39.1%.

    Let’s take a step back to understand exactly how bananas that is.

    Harden gets 0.75 points of value per shot attempt in the mid-range, 1.1 points behind the 3-point line and 1.26 points around the rim—layups and dunks that should carry the highest returns. Except they don’t for Harden. And that’s because he is getting 1.38 points on his stepback threes.

    James Harden squares up for a 3-point shot. PHOTO: BOB LEVEY/GETTY IMAGES
    His stepback 3-pointer is a useful window on how and why the Rockets have won 31 of their last 33 games with the best record in the league and the best offense in the history of the league. It’s both a reflection of the way they think off the court and the result of everything they do on the court.

    Harden may be the only player in the league with the lower-body strength to make the stepback an essential part of his game. When he visited the Peak Performance Project sports laboratory two years ago for biomechanical tests, Harden learned that he ranked in the 99th percentile of professional athletes in one peculiar area: how quickly he stopped his downward momentum after jumping. Harden was the fastest at slowing down.

    That braking system is the secret to his stepback. Curry has the sublime hand-eye coordination to shoot 3-pointers from previously unimaginable distances. Dirk Nowitzki was tall enough to sneak his one-legged fadeaway over any defender. Harden uses his superior deceleration to create the space he requires for his stepback 3-pointers.

    “Not many people can do that,” D’Antoni said, “and that’s not what a lot of people think you should be doing.”

    [​IMG]
    ILLUSTRATION: MIKE SUDAL/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
    The Rockets, the first team to shoot more 3-pointers than 2-pointers, love things not a lot of people think they should be doing. But they didn’t enter this season writing on the erasable walls in D’Antoni’s office that Harden should break his own existing record for stepback 3-pointers. This idea was as much serendipity as strategy. Here’s the way D’Antoni himself describes the process by which he realized Harden taking a stepback 3-pointer was a good shot: “Ooooh, look at that! That looks good.”

    Harden can now shoot as many stepback 3-pointers as he wants for the same reason the Rockets are willing to stick with any experiment: because it works. And it works because of Harden and because of everyone around Harden.

    James Harden reacts during a game. PHOTO: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER/REUTERS
    Harden is meticulous about creating and exploiting mismatches whenever and wherever he can find them. He usually picks one player to isolate—either his own defender or a big man who switches onto him—and then picks on him. The poor guy stuck guarding Harden soon finds himself on an island.

    The other Rockets and their defenders are standing far enough away that if they were standing any farther they would have to pay for their seats. They become useful by disappearing. Because he no longer needs his teammates at that point: All but two of Harden’s stepback threes have been unassisted.

    Let’s use this play as an example. Paul spots the mismatch between Harden and Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and passes to him. Trevor Ariza recognizes the isolation and literally runs away. There’s not much Towns can do in this situation other than hope this is one of the times Harden’s shot misses. It’s not.



    What becomes painfully obvious when you re-watch his 157 stepbacks is that it doesn’t seem to matter who’s guarding Harden once he’s isolated. He counts guards, wings and even the game’s defensive stars like Draymond Green and Paul George among the victims of his stepbacks. But there is no one he enjoys roasting more than a big man.

    He’s shooting 55% on his stepback 3-pointers over the rim-protectors he drags out to the perimeter, according to The Wall Street Journal’s analysis. The incomplete list of bigs who couldn’t stop his stepback 3-pointers this season includes Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Marc Gasol, Al Horford, LaMarcus Aldridge, Myles Turner and Towns three times.

    Look at this play:



    Or this play:



    And this play:



    Give him too much space, and he shoots. Get too close to him, and he drives. Do everything right, and he drills a stepback three.

    That’s what happened in a game against Portland last week. Harden isolated Damian Lillard directly in front of the Trail Blazers’ bench. Portland coach Terry Stotts could see the inevitable coming and begged for help. Al-Farouq Aminu rushed to double-team Harden. It was all useless. Harden took one bunnyhop and made his fifth stepback 3-pointer of the night over both of them.



    How do you guard that?

    “You don’t,” D’Antoni said.
     
    #1 Bob Barker 007, Mar 29, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
    Voltik, adw, Verbal Christ and 22 others like this.
  2. Os Trigonum

    Os Trigonum It. Deserves. Its. Own. Thread.
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    great article
     
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  3. FLASH21

    FLASH21 Relax. We Got THIS.
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  4. Nick_713

    Nick_713 Member

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    10/10...would read again!
     
    adw likes this.
  5. onreego

    onreego Member

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    And about one step short of a travel. :p
     
  6. Ziggy

    Ziggy Tastemaker
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    The league wont replicate it either. Nobody else can do it.
     
  7. chenjy9

    chenjy9 Numbers Don't Lie
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    Footwork is important and always underrated by most fans.
     
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  8. onreego

    onreego Member

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    Oh I agree. Harden's step back is a different level. Anyone can do a step back but the timing he has on his gather to the moment he actually pushes off that foot takes practice.
     
  9. chenjy9

    chenjy9 Numbers Don't Lie
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    Not just that, but always knowing when to execute his gather step, how many steps he can still take, how he can take those steps, and at what speed he could or should take this steps.
     
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  10. ryano2009

    ryano2009 Member

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    It's an embarrassment, I think the league is so happy with the scoring that it doesn't want to enforce stuff like that.
     
    #10 ryano2009, Mar 29, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  11. OTMax

    OTMax Member

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    It is actually crazy how efficient he is at it and so easily something we can take for granted, like Curry’s deep threes. We’re used to it, so it’s good to be reminded how sick that move is and just crazy efficient. Harden is something special!
     
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  12. Hippieloser

    Hippieloser Contributing Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  13. Deuce

    Deuce Contributing Member
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    This article is SO AWESOME! The move that has the #Worriers Steve Kerr so #shook.

    --
    "Harden is shooting a remarkable 45.9% on his stepback 3-pointers.

    When he visited the Peak Performance Project sports laboratory two years ago for biomechanical tests, Harden learned that he ranked in the 99th percentile of professional athletes in one peculiar area: how quickly he stopped his downward momentum after jumping. Harden was the fastest at slowing down.

    That braking system is the secret to his stepback. Harden uses his superior deceleration to create the space he requires for his stepback 3-pointers."
    --


    We need to find a way to get the mainstream NBA Talk shows talking about this. This is severely underreported!
     
    adw and Clutch like this.
  14. Deuce

    Deuce Contributing Member
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    Seriously, ESPN's The Jump should be doing a feature segment on this. C'mon Rachel Nichols!

     
  15. vlaurelio

    vlaurelio Contributing Member

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    in b4 harden's new endorsement deal

    [​IMG]
     
    Nick_713, bongman, Voltik and 2 others like this.
  16. FTW Rockets FTW

    FTW Rockets FTW Contributing Member
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    But but it's a travel

    signed,
    haters
     
  17. Deuce

    Deuce Contributing Member
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    Just for reference.



     
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  18. topfive

    topfive CF OG
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    And for the 64% who got it wrong...

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Bob Barker 007

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    Here's one of the charts that had bad formatting when I pasted the article here:

     
    D-rock likes this.
  20. heypartner

    heypartner Contributing Member

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    that link won't work
     
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