Over the last few seasons, Houston Rockets star guard James Harden has established himself as one of the best players in the league behind his gifted offensive ability. Harden has gathered much separation as the league’s best scorer behind his unique talent that has been unmatched over the past two seasons as he’s scoring at a historic pace. That has led to him putting up some huge outings along the way over that span. It has now led San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan to voice that there could be another all-time record that Harden could have a real shot at potentially breaking.
James Harden’s scoring prowess
Since the Oklahoma City Thunder made the surprising decision to trade Harden to the Rockets, his career has taken off on another plateau, elevating himself to one of the top players in the league.
He has earned that recognition and reputation behind his scoring ability that has seen him averaging 29.4 points in his first seven-plus seasons with Houston. Harden has taken that to the next level in the last two years, pushing his scoring average beyond 36.0 points per contest.
The 30-year-old has embraced that ever-increasing offensive workload this season as he leads the NBA with 38.9 points per contest. Harden has been on a scoring spree as his 739 points through the first 19 games of a season are the most since Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain, dating back to the 1962-63 campaign. He has scored 40 or more points seven times this season, which the Rockets hold a 7-0 record in such performances.
That has been highlighted by him tallying 60 points in the first three quarters of the game against the Atlanta Hawks, which marked his fourth career 60-point outing putting him in a tie with Hall of Famer Michael Jordan. It was also the 20th time in his career that he has notched at least 50 points, which is fourth all-time in NBA history.
Harden’s incredible scoring pace has pushed DeMar DeRozan to the belief that his peer could challenge one seemingly untouchable mark.
DeMar DeRozan’s lofty praise towards James Harden
The offensive tear that Harden has put forth to begin the 2019-20 season has seen him reach great heights offensively.
His hectic scoring pace has also brought into the conversation the potential that he could challenge the single-game scoring mark held by Chamberlain. Ahead of Tuesday’s matchup, DeRozan voiced that he thinks Harden could potentially break that all-time mark, according to San Antonio Express-News’ Jeff McDonald.
Having grown up in Los Angeles with Harden, however, DeRozan was less impressed with his friend’s latest feat.
“I’m pretty sure if he put his mind to it, he could score 100,” DeRozan said.
DeRozan’s assessment is likely one that many of his peers hold given the amount of offensive success that Harden has had over the last couple of seasons. There doesn’t appear to be any slowing down in his production as he’s hit a career-best pace with his scoring prowess.
All of that simply begs the question if he does have a realistic shot at breaking Chamberlain’s all-time mark.
Could James Harden break Wilt’s record?
Since Chamberlain set the all-time single-game scoring mark more than 57 years ago, it has stood firm at the top of the list. The lone performance that has gotten remotely close was Kobe Bryant’s 81 points back in 2006 against the Toronto Raptors. In the years that have followed, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker dropped 70 points on the Boston Celtics in March 2017.
The uptick in Harden’s production has put him in the conversation as having the potential to reach that mark. However, it would have to be the ideal situation for all of that to fall into place.
Beyond shooting at a high percentage from the floor, Harden would need not only need to get hot from beyond the arc but also live at the free-throw line in the game. What would also be equally important in that equation is the contest remains close throughout so that he can stay in the game long enough.
That was the case for Bryant against the Raptors as the Los Angeles Lakers needed all 81 of his points to make a double-digit second-half comeback. Harden could have potentially added much more than setting a new career to his 60 points against the Hawks if he had played in the fourth quarter, but the game was completely out of hand. It’s not a question of Harden’s offensive ability to challenge that mark, but rather the unlikeliness of all of these factors needing to be in place for the opportunity to even be available.