James Harden Named NBA’s Sixth Man
James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year for the 2011-12 season. This is one annual NBA award that came as no surprise as Harden has been playing out of his mind this year.
Harden has experienced the classic third-year jump this season posting averages of 16.8 points, 3.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 1.8 three-pointers at 39.0 percent. He shot free throws at 84.6 percent and field goals at 49.1 percent.
Harden received 584 of a possible 595 points, including 115 of a possible 119 first-place votes, from a panel of 119 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Louis Williams, who led the Philadelphia 76ers in scoring (14.9 points) despite not starting a single game, finished second with 231 points. Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks, who won the award in 2008-09, finished third with 81 points.
Al Harrington, Manu Ginobili, Taj Gibson, O.J. Mayo, Mo Williams, Thaddeus Young, Kyle Korver, Zach Randolph, C.J. Watson, Carl Landry, Jamal Crawford, Gary Neal, Mike Dunleavy, Tyler Hansbrough, J.R. Smith, George Hill and J.R. Smith also received votes.
This season, Harden ranked second in the league – behind Tyson Chandler – in true shooting percentage (66.0 percent). He arguably could have been considered as Most Improved Player as well.
Believe it or not, his production during the playoffs thus far has been even better.
During the four-game sweep in the first round over the Dallas Mavericks – that would be the defending NBA champions – Harden averaged 18.3 points, 4.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds. Check these shooting percentages: 50.0 percent field goal shooting, 46.2 percent three-point shooting and 87.1 percent at the charity stripe.
He’s leading all players in the postseason at 68 percent in true shooting. Keep in mind, the series began just days after he suffered a Metta World Peace-induced concussion.
The performance the 22-year-old displayed in series-ending Game 4 was nothing short of inspired. Harden went into attack-mode and lodged a comeback campaign, scoring 15 points in the final quarter.
Hoopedia.com defines a Sixth Man as “a player in a reserve role who is not part of a team’s starting five – has an impact by increasing the pace of a game, scoring, rebounding or making hustle plays. Starting the game on the bench, a sixth man must observe how he can best help his team when he hits the court. Most sixth men will tell you it’s not important who starts the game, but rather who is “on” when the game is on the line.”
Harden is that and more.
The Thunder picked the former Arizona State stand-out third overall in the 2009 NBA draft and shaped him into another player that has become invaluable. He’s a versatile playmaker and scorer, plus an increasingly reliable defender. In his reserve role, he’s the third-leading scorer on the team behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. And he’s quickly earning a reputation as a closer.
He’s ranked third in offensive rating, higher than LeBron James. He’s sixth in the league in win shares (9.3). Harden has accomplished all of this while averaging just 31.4 minutes per game.
In a nod to his stellar year, Harden was recently added to the pool of potential players to represent the United States in the Olympics this summer.
At media day last December, Harden told HOOPSWORLD that winning the Sixth Man of the Year award was a personal goal. He completely deserved it this season.