Following a 3-7 start to the season, the Los Angeles Clippers have stormed back in a big way, winning 26 of their next 33 games, ascending to 3rd in the Western Conference at the time of this writing. You could point to any number of reasons for this in-season turnaround — the collective health of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the decent amount of depth the Clips have on their roster despite being top-heavy, the underrated excellence of Ty Lue on the Clips bench — but the one I’ll focus on today is James Harden.
After rolling to a 127-107 win in on the road versus the Toronto Raptors, Ty Lue addressed the media, and spoke awfully highly of his veteran point guard, who finished with a 22-point, 10-rebound, 13-assist triple double, the 75th of his career.
When you’re winning at the rate the Clippers are, it’s understandable why the whole team would be happy. And Ty Lue couldn’t be more correct when he said that the presence of James Harden “makes it a lot easier” for the two stars the Clips brought in way back in 2019, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
At the moment, both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are both having their most efficient scoring seasons as Clippers. Both are a shade over 23 points per game, shooting the lights out, and doing so with lower usage rates — 25.5% for Kawhi, 27% for PG — than they have at any point in their tenures in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Harden is averaging only 17.4 points per game, his lowest total since he was a sixth man with the Oklahoma City Thunder, however, like his two teammates, Harden has been scoring efficiently — 46/42/88 shooting splits — and averaging 8.6 assists per game, the highest assist per game total by a Clipper in the Kawhi/PG era.
There is one question that remains hovering above this Clippers season, with the answer likely determining just how far the Clips can advance in the NBA Playoffs… how long will James Harden remain happy? Sure, the rest of his teammates are happy right now, but we’ve seen this movie before. Harden can flip the switch as fast as anyone, going from happy to unhappy in the blink of an eye. Look at what happened when he was in Houston. Or how about in Brooklyn? Oh, remember how his time with the Philadelphia 76ers ended?
Happy, healthy, invested James Harden is still one of the 30-or-so best players in the NBA, and with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, it’s a trio that could absolutely win an NBA title… so long as everyone remains happy, healthy and invested into June.