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What if Harden, KD and Curry Switched Roles?

Within the second spherical of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, followers have been treated to a particularly riveting rematch of last yr’s Western Convention Finals, between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. To jog your memory, final yr the Warriors gained the collection in seven. And this yr, the Warriors gained in six.

Nevertheless, disregarding the dramatic 2018 collection, this playoff collection was still incredibly fascinating. First, these two groups are the winningest teams within the Western Convention over the past two years, with Houston profitable 118 games, and Golden State profitable 115.

Second, the star power on this collection cannot be matched, with the collection including four of the last 5 MVP trophies.

Kevin Durant gained MVP in 2014 while Stephen Curry gained in 2015 and 2016 and James Harden gained in 2018.

Thirdly, and most prominently, what makes this collection so fascinating is how totally different both teams play despite being the two most profitable groups within the Western Convention over the past two years.

Taking a look at workforce numbers

This season, the Warriors led the league in help proportion, at 66.8 %. The Rockets have been 28th at 54.1. The Warriors led the league in slicing frequency at 10.three %. The Rockets have been 26th at 5.9 %. In abstract, Golden State is beautiful, free-flowing and delicate. Houston is rugged, stagnant and intense.

Harden’s Ideology

This comparison carries over to the three aforementioned stars. Each is a certifiable star whereas approaching the game with clashing intents. The causal power of his group, Harden spends most of his time with the ball in his arms isolating. There, he takes an unwavering methodology: get to the rim or get a three and try to get fouled within the course of. That’s it. His hyper-analytical type has allowed him to score an otherworldly 36.1 points per recreation this season. Probably the most since Michael Jordan scored 37.1 per contest in 1986-1987.

Durant’s Ideology

Meanwhile, Durant, a basketball purist, does not care about historically efficient photographs. Principally as a result of virtually every shot he takes is an efficient shot. Thus, whereas Harden strays away from the mid-range, taking one per recreation on a 42 % clip, Durant thrives there, capturing a league-leading 55.1 % on 5.9 attempts per recreation.

“I don’t like analytics at all,” Kevin Durant stated on The Invoice Simmons Podcast.

A press release that makes complete sense coming from a walking anomaly. Nevertheless, very similar to Harden, Durant led his staff in isolations per recreation. Harde isolations are the Rockets’ recreation plan, with Harden spending 16.four possessions per recreation in isolation, Durant isolations are the Warriors’ monkey wrench, with Durant spending 3.7 possessions per recreation isolating.

Lastly, there’s Stephen Curry. He’s not sturdy like Harden or stretchy like Durant, and thus he only sees 1.three isolations per recreation. As an alternative, Curry spends much of his time operating off screens for 3 balls, coming off screens a second within the league 4.8 possessions per recreation. He is usually thought-about to be one of the best three-point shooter of all time, with a best of all time 3.6 three-pointers made per recreation. And this season he was first in the league in pull up three-point proportion amongst those that shot 41 or extra, at 41.5 %. He was additionally eleventh in catch and shoot three-point proportion on a first within the league 6.7 attempts per recreation, at 44.6 %. And first in vast open three-point proportion, at 52.5 %.

Considering of the three stars’ differing types, I stumbled upon an fascinating statistical hypothetical: what if each of the three have been to play like one another? How would Curry and Durant play if they adopted the same analytics-based type of Harden? How would Curry and Harden play if they let it fly from the mid-range like Kevin Durant? What if Durant and Harden took as many catch-and-shoot threes as Curry? Thus, I took my contemplation to Google Sheets, and formulated a way to calculate this.

Before I start, I might identical to to say that I am by no means claiming that my results are a wonderfully accurate illustration of what number of photographs participant x would make if he took the very same photographs as player y, with the same defensive protection. That is mathematically unimaginable to calculate. As an alternative, by means of knowledge on, I’ve tried to calculate how each participant does on every player’s shot choice based mostly on the next categories: restricted space subject aim attempts, non-restricted area paint subject aim makes an attempt, mid-range subject objective makes an attempt, catch-and-shoot three-point attempts, pull up three-point makes an attempt and free throw makes an attempt. As well as shot choice, I additionally included what number of turnovers gamers would get if that they had as much time of possession as another player by dividing player x turnovers by player x time of possession and multiplying that by player y time of possession.

I additionally initially tried to include what number of assist factors created participant x would get in participant y’s position. Nevertheless, with assists being as a lot concerning the shooter as they are concerning the passer, I did not embrace them.

Alternatively to this technique, I did originally attempt to embrace how every player would do using each other’s play varieties, akin to decide and roll handler, isolation, handoff, and so forth. This does not take a look at how participant x would do with participant y’s shot selection, however as an alternative how participant x would do with player y’s opportunities. Nevertheless, on account of considerations of small pattern measurement, I did not embrace it, as that may not be accurate at all.

The final calculation entitled “Effectiveness” is complete factors, added up from the aforementioned participant y area aim attempts on specified photographs, multiplied by player x’s area objective proportion minus the aforementioned turnover equation, multiplied by league common factors off turnover, which is approximately 1.17. In the event you don’t like reading math, the essential equation is that this:

PTS-(TOV*Lg Common PTS off TOV)

Principally, the equation is how a lot participant x scores with participant y’s shot choice minus what number of factors participant x allows offensively with participant y’s time with the ball per recreation.

It’s also noteworthy to mention that when including up how participant x did on participant x’s shot selection, there by some means have been decimal variations between the points per recreation spit out by the equation, and their precise points per recreation. Nevertheless, they’re fairly insignificant, so I wouldn’t pay an excessive amount of mind to them.

Acquired it? Okay. Let’s get began.

Enjoying Like Harden

Credit score @jharden13 Instagram

Harden’s Per Recreation Tendencies:

6.7 Restricted Space Area Aim Makes an attempt

three.6 Non-Restricted Area Paint Subject Objective Attempts

1 Mid-Range Subject Aim Attempt

.9 Catch-and-Shoot Three-Point Makes an attempt

12.1 Pull Up Three-Level Makes an attempt

11 Free Throw Attempts

5 Turnovers on 9.3 Minutes of Possession


Effectiveness Rating:

  1. Stephen Curry: 32.6
  2. James Harden: 30.1
  3. Kevin Durant: 29

Factors Ranking:

  1. Stephen Curry: 38.9
  2. Kevin Durant: 36.5
  3. James Harden: 35.9

How Curry Would Play

A lot of the rationale why Stephen Curry overtook James Harden with Harden’s own tendencies is as a result of Curry is a a lot better pull up three-point shooter. Whereas Harden shot 36.three % on pull ups this season, as previously mentioned, Curry shot 41.5 %. Thus, Curry received 1.9 extra factors per recreation on pull up three-point attempts than Harden. Different contributors have been Curry’s 62.8 % subject aim proportion in the restricted space to Harden’s 58.eight %, and Curry’s 91.6 % free throw proportion to Harden’s 87.9 %. Actually, the one category through which Harden did better than Curry on was turnovers per 9.three minutes of possession. For whereas Curry received 5.4, Harden received five.

Nevertheless, whereas I might see Curry being more successful enjoying like Harden than Harden is, it might also be a gross overstep for Curry to play like Harden on the already star-studded Warriors. In reality, in a conversation with Harden, Curry even came upon that Harden solely plays as ball-dominantly as he does as a result of it is necessary to the success of his staff.

Nevertheless, say that one way or the other the Warriors did lose three members of their massive 4 this offseason, I might see Curry succeeding in a Harden-type position. But still, there are a couple issues. Firstly, with Curry’s long damage history, I might not belief his durability as much as I do Harden’s. For in his ten yr profession, Harden has played 95.1 % of his group’s regular season video games, while Curry has performed simply 86.3 %. Secondly, with Curry being thirty pounds lighter than Harden, I doubt he would have the ability to tackle the quantity of contact Harden does at the rim, which is why Harden shot 6.7 photographs in the restricted space, while Curry shot just three.4 this season.

How Durant Would Play

While Durant did outscore Harden by .6, his turnovers made him final on the effectiveness ranking. For Harden had 5 turnovers per 9.three minutes of possession, and Durant had 6.4. Nevertheless, what made Durant outscore Harden was his capacity to score within the paint. For in the restricted and non-restricted area, Durant outscored Harden by 2.2. This made up for Durant’s final of the three 31.1 pull up three-point proportion.

And whereas Durant might undoubtedly achieve a Harden-like position, I do assume that Durant’s personal shot choice matches him higher. For this reason Kevin Durant’s true capturing proportion was 63.1 % this season and can be 62.7 % if he had Harden’s tendencies. Moreover, as a result of he would flip the ball over more with Harden’s time of possession, working him off the ball extra is sensible in that respect.

How Harden Plays

Regardless of being second of three on this listing, Harden could be very much greatest suited of the three to be in a Harden-like position, resulting from aforementioned physicality considerations with Stephen Curry. Nevertheless, he did end up solely coming in second because inside two-point vary, he came in last on each shot class. This gave him 1.four less factors on twos than Curry, and 5 less points on twos than Durant. He also only came in second for each three-point classes, with Curry coming in first.

Nevertheless, much of the rationale why Harden was the simplest offensive participant in the league this yr by 1.52, based on offensive real plus-minus, is because he had probably the most analytical shot choice within the NBA. He was able to find historically efficient photographs greater than anyone else in the NBA. Even if he isn’t necessarily distinctive at taking those historically environment friendly photographs. It is his strategy and on-court manoeuvring that make him so effective. Not his potential to make onerous photographs. For this reason he was worse than both Curry and Durant at making tightly contested photographs this season.

Enjoying Like Durant

Kevin DurantCredit @easymoneysniper Instagram

Durant’s Per Recreation Tendencies:

three.6 Restricted Space Subject Objective Attempts

3.2 Non-Restricted Area Paint Subject Objective Attempts

5.9 Mid-Range Area Aim Try

2.2 Catch-and-Shoot Three-Point Attempts

2.7 Pull Up Three-Level Attempts

6.5 Free Throw Makes an attempt

2.9 Turnovers on 4.2 Minutes of Possession


Effectiveness Rating:

  1. Kevin Durant: 22.5
  2. Stephen Curry: 22
  3. James Harden: 20.eight

Points Ranking:

  1. Kevin Durant: 25.9
  2. Stephen Curry: 24.8
  3. James Harden: 23.4

How Curry Would Play

Being that Curry is a better two-point scorer than Harden, it is sensible why Curry would have 1.1 more points than Harden from two-point range. And being that Durant is even better than Curry, it also is sensible that Durant would outscore Curry by four.6 in two-point vary. With Durant taking 28.1 % of his photographs from three, in comparison with Curry’s 60.4 % or Harden’s 53.9 %, Curry’s largest power was majorly deemphasized as properly. Nevertheless, Curry’s superior three-point capturing did contribute to why Curry was simply .5 away from Durant in effectiveness, in addition to his much less turnovers.

As beforehand mentioned, Durant’s capability to hit mid-range photographs is an anomaly. At seven ft, he can pretty much shoot over a lot of the smaller wings that defend him, making contests less efficient as they’re with Curry. This is the reason Durant shoots 9.1 % larger on mid-range jumpers. Subsequently, it wouldn’t make much sense for Curry to forfeit more environment friendly photographs for Durant’s mid-range-heavy fashion.

How Harden Would Play

With the worst two-point scoring of the three, no marvel why Harden was last on this listing. Similarly to Curry, he did beat Durant on threes, however as soon as again as a result of Durant performs a extra two-point oriented recreation than either of them, Harden’s stronger three-point recreation is less essential. Very similar to with Curry, having Harden play like Durant would compromise what makes Harden so great in the first place. Nevertheless, Harden would still be an All-Star degree participant if he performed like Durant, with a 57.3 % true capturing proportion, as only 20 gamers this season have had a better true capturing proportion on 15 photographs or more.

How Durant Performs

In contrast to Harden, who succeeds as a result of he has the perfect shot selection for almost all of perimeter gamers within the NBA, Durant succeeds as a result of nobody ought to be capturing the photographs he does. For as mentioned before, Durant has someway made mid-range photographs at a very efficient price, which may’t be stated for the overwhelming majority of the NBA. On this method and many others, Durant is a unicorn.

Enjoying Like Curry

Stephen CurryCredit Keith Allison Flickr

Curry’s Per Recreation Tendencies:

3.four Restricted Space Area Objective Makes an attempt

1.4 Non-Restricted Space Paint Subject Aim Attempts

2.8 Mid-Range Area Aim Try

6.7 Catch-and-Shoot Three-Level Makes an attempt

four.9 Pull Up Three-Level Attempts

4.2 Free Throw Attempts

2.8 Turnovers on four.eight Minutes of Possession


Effectiveness Rating:

  1. Stephen Curry: 23.6
  2. Kevin Durant: 22
  3. James Harden: 21.9

Factors Rating:

  1. Stephen Curry: 26.9
  2. Kevin Durant: 25.9
  3. James Harden: 25

How Durant Would Play

Regardless of Durant being the worst three-point shooter of the three this yr, his capability to hit twos once once more puts him above Harden, with three.6 extra factors from two-point vary. Moreover, with Durant’s means to hit threes off screens, scoring in the 84th percentile on off the display factors per possession this season, I do assume that he might succeed in this position. Nevertheless, very similar to I stated how Durant would get the ball too much in a Harden-like position, I do not assume he’d get it enough in a Curry-like position. As soon as once more, his true capturing proportion would decline, this time by 1.6 %, and as a seven footer with guard-like talent, lots of his points come from breaking down mismatches.

How Harden Would Play

To be clear once once more, if Harden performed precisely like Curry, he would still be an All-Star per this equation. He’s nonetheless very much ok from deep, and would put up a 59.three % true capturing proportion on this state of affairs. Nevertheless, not only is that this the improper position for Harden from a production perspective, but Harden also simply isn’t as fluid of an athlete as Curry, nor is he almost as fast from three. He definitely can’t transfer off of screens as shortly as Curry. And regardless of main the league in attempts, he has a reasonably unexceptional release time. Meanwhile, Curry and even Durant to an extent have fairly fast triggers. Thus, operating Harden off screens is likely not the most effective concept.

How Curry Plays

Do I actually need to inform you something you’ve in all probability recognized since his rookie season? Curry’s a world class shooter guys. But something that typically goes underneath the radar is simply how fast he is. We don’t see him as the kind of on-ball sprinter that guys like Russell Westbrook and De’Aaron Fox are. And he definitely doesn’t have their hops.

Nevertheless, off of screens, there isn’t any one quicker than Stephen Curry. He’s like a stunt driver getting around something put in front of him, despite how unlikely it might seem. That’s the reason he has been prime 5 in off display possessions per recreation because the stat has been out there on To put it merely, no one can move off of screens like him.

In Conclusion

Shock shock, Harden, Durant and Curry have every chosen approaches that make the most sense for their talent units. Harden’s craftiness has allowed him to get to probably the most environment friendly areas of the floor. Durant’s measurement has allowed him to reap the benefits of the mid-range. And Curry’s shot and velocity have allowed him to spend so much of time shifting off of the ball for threes. On this approach, Harden, Durant and Curry are the right counter to anyone who believes that the NBA has lacked stylistic variety.

All statistics are from, and


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