Former Houston Rockets head coach and Hall of Famer Kevin McHale praised James Harden’s scoring and passing ability but emphasized that he lacks the quality of a leader. McHale told NBA TV in an interview, per Ryne Nelson of Slam Online, that Harden tried to act as a leader last season, but he still lacks that quality due to his shortcomings on defense. McHale, who coached the Rockets for three-plus seasons starting in 2012-13, believes that the Rockets will have a new leader with the arrival of Chris Paul, while Harden focuses on his style of play that almost earned him the MVP Award last season.

Last season, Harden averaged 29.1 points, 11.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 81 games for the Rockets. With his all-around play, Harden finished second in MVP voting last year to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. James’ performance earned him a four-year, $170 million contract extension.

Stats prove McHale’s concerns

If we look at the statistics, McHale’s pronouncements have a basis. According to, Harden finished fourth in the NBA when it comes to Offensive Real Plus-Minus during the 2016-17 campaign. However, in the defensive version of the statistics, Harden was tied for 399th place. Paul, for his part, ranked high in both aspects of the statistics. The Rockets acquired Paul via trade, sending Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, and Montrezl Harrell to the Los Angeles Clippers for the veteran point guard.

Rockets expected to challenge Warriors

The tandem of Paul and Harden are expected to give the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors a run for their money. According to Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, he has a clear-cut plan on how to beat the Warriors. In an interview with Tim MacMahon of ESPN, D’Antoni said he plans to outscore the Warriors when they face off in the coming season.

"You're not gonna stop them. They're not gonna stop us either. Should be fun,” said D’Antoni, who is known for his run-and-gun offenses during his stints with the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers.

D'Antoni's system worked wonders for the Rockets in his first year as head coach when they finished second in the league in scoring with an average of 115.3 points per game. The Rockets’ brand of play earned them the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and helped them advance to the conference semifinals, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in six games.