When the LA Clippers traded for James Harden at the end of October, they took the NBA world by storm. It was a move that prompted reactions (and overreactions) from every corner of the professional basketball landscape.
Harden himself only added fuel to the fire when he made an early statement about his fit with the team. Contrasting his new role with the Clippers to his old one in Philadelphia, Harden said "I'm not a system player, I am a system."
These buzz words set NBA discourse ablaze with doubters pointing to his recent failure with the 76ers. Many saw Harden's words as prideful and claimed there was no way he would ever work out in LA if he truly believed he was still the same caliber player he was five years ago.
Harden's "system" comments produced a lot of doubters
In reality, Harden was never claiming he would come in and be the best player on the Clippers. Rather, he knew his skills could help LA unlock a new level and get even more out of their two best players, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. So far, he has been right.
Since Russell Westbrook moved to the bench and James Harden officially became the team's starting point guard, his abilities have truly been maximized. In the last 16 games, the Clippers hold a 13-3 record thanks in part to some stellar play from Harden.
But the last eight games are where the former MVP has truly shined. During LA's eight-game win streak, Harden is averaging 20.1 points and 9.8 assists per game, while shooting 51.7% from the floor and 48.9% from three-point territory.
James Harden has helped the Clippers reach a new level
He has achieved these numbers while playing very solid defense as well, averaging 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per contest in this same stretch. For a player that has (fairly or unfairly) been criticized for his defense throughout his career, this is a major development at this point in Harden's career.
Perhaps the most telling number of all is the Clippers' offensive rating. LA currently has their best offensive rating in franchise history at 118.5, just ahead of their 117.6 mark they put up in the 2020-21 season.
If this number holds up, Harden will have helped four different NBA franchises achieve a record for offensive rating during his tenure with them. The Rockets, Nets, and 76ers also set franchise highs in this category with him leading the way.
All this points to the possibility that Harden was right all along when he claimed he was a system. There is still a long way to the finish line, but the Clippers' offense has never been more efficient than with James Harden at point guard.