Caron Butler explains the problem playing with James Harden, Rockets
Former NBA All-Star Caron Butler does not think that the Houston Rockets‘ offensive system is amenable to the wishes of players around the league.
Butler had some criticisms of Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo style, suggesting that most of the players on the Rockets’ roster are merely floor-spacers meant to open up the floor for James Harden.
“I don’t think a lot of people really want to sign up for this run track. People run and sprint the floor for opportunities and when you’re just a spacer and just standing there with limited possessions, it’s not something you want to be a part of,” Butler said, via Phil C of The Basketball Network.
Of course, Caron Butler is also making reference to James Harden’s penchant for isolation.
Harden is far and away the most iso-based player in the NBA. “The Beard” has a 44.1 frequency rate in running isolations, according to NBA.com. Interestingly enough, Harden’s teammate Russell Westbrook ranks second in the league.
This does not mean, however, that Harden is ineffective in isolation. After all, the Rockets star and former NBA MVP is averaging 1.14 points per possession when he isolates, which is one of the best marks in the NBA given the aforementioned frequency.
Still, it is understandable why Butler would suggest other players might not want to play in a system where two players dominate the ball. In the same token, players like Danuel House and Ben McLemore have arguably had more success playing alongside Harden.
Such a system also allows the Rockets to play smaller, with P.J. Tucker seeing heavy minutes as an undersized four-man and providing additional floor spacing.
In any case, Houston’s issues are not stemming from offensive deficiencies. The Rockets rank second in the NBA in offensive rating, according to Basketball Reference.