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James Harden: The eventual 2012-2013 NBA Scoring Champ

If James Harden can score anywhere near as efficiently as he did in the season opener for the entire season, he’ll lead the NBA in scoring.

Every year the same names appear on top of the NBA’s leading scorer list. Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant are among the usual suspects. But, this year a new name could grace that list, and even take home the title of scoring champ. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to James Harden.

Harden was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two first round draft picks on Oct. 27. The trade came as a surprise to many around the league. Harden’s former teammate and friend, Kevin Durant, simply tweeted “Wow.” after the news of the trade broke.

The trade may or may not shake up the Western Conference standings, but it will give the NBA a new top scorer. James Harden can lead the league in scoring. He can fill it up efficiently, and now he is the focal point of a team.

It sounds absurd at first. How could Harden score more points than his former teammate Kevin Durant? Could he really outscore Kobe and LeBron for an entire season? The answer is yes, and I’ll tell you why.

In his first game with Houston, Harden led the Rockets to a victory over Detroit while accumulating 37 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, four steals and one blocked shot. In the past 25 seasons, only four players have had a game with at least those statistics. That list includes Micheal Jordan, Larry Bird, Dwyane Wade and Harden. And for the cherry on top, Harden did all of that after being in the Rockets’ system for a mere four days. Talk about a great debut, the new Rocket blasted off.

James Harden is now the go-to scorer for the Houston Rockets. His ability to cut to the basket and score is among the best in the league. Harden’s “Eurostep” (a move that involves taking a step in one direction with the ball, and then quickly taking a second step in another direction) is nearly unguardable. He is a problem for defenses because they are forced to respect every aspect of his game. He can hit the three ball, pass efficiently and cut to the basket with the best of them.

Harden poured in 37 points in his first game with a brand new team. It’s hard to imagine how much better than that he can get, but as he meshes with his new teammates, he can only improve.

As a member of the Thunder last year, Harden averaged 16.8 points per game while coming off of the bench as the Thunder’s sixth man. He was the third scoring option on a team with Durant and Russell Westbrook. When Durant was on the bench (which was a rare occurrence), Harden’s numbers sky-rocketed. He is capable of leading a team, and the association, in scoring.

Harden is only 23 years old; this is just his fourth NBA season. Unlike in Oklahoma City, Harden will have free reign to shoot in Houston. That’s a scary thing, because he shot 49.1 percent from the field on 10.1 shots a game to average about 17 points per game last year for Oklahoma City. Harden took 25 shots and hit 56 percent of them to score 37 points in his first game as a Rocket. Fifteen more shots a game for Harden means at least 20-25 more points a game. If Harden can average 25 shots a game for the season, and keep his field goal percentage anywhere near 56 percent, he’ll be the NBA’s leading scorer.

The sky is the limit for this Rocket, heck, he might even break the sound barrier. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that James Harden will lead the NBA in scoring this season. Fear the beard.

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