James Harden Is One NBA Championship Away From Being the Face of the NBA
Doubts about the "Beard" can only be cured with an NBA title. The 2019-20 season is the perfect season for James Harden to make this happen.
James Harden had a fantastic scoring streak last season that included 32 straight games of at least 30 points. Harden during the streak averaged 41.1 PPG. The only other player to ever have 25 or more consecutive 30-point games include Wilt Chamberlain.
However, Harden remains one of the most overlooked players in NBA history.
Harden's scoring streak may be the most impressive scoring streak In modern NBA history. In fact, the beard’s streak is the longest since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. The streak is beyond impressive. Harden was able to score at least 40 points 18 times and 50 points 4 different games.
What is equally impressive is that Harden for the season averaged 35.4 PPG per 36 minutes of play. The highest Michael Jordan ever averaged per 36 minutes of play during the regular season is 33.4 PPG and 34.9 for the playoffs.
Harden did not underperform in the playoffs, he just ran into the splash brothers, again. Kevin Durant played the first three-quarters of game 5 of the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals. So, the Warriors only played one game without Durant in the Western Conference semifinals.
After watching game 6 of the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals, I feel like losing to the Warriors wrecked James Harden’s whole regular season performance and changed the optics of his entire postseason run. Whether or not people want to admit it, subconsciously, this definitely played into Harden not getting the MVP award.
If Harden and the Rockets had advanced to the Western Conference Finals in the 2019 NBA playoffs, more people would have been inclined to name him the NBA. The Oklahoma City Thunder traded Russell Westbrook and Paul George and started over with nearly a half-decade to help rebuild the "Sooner' NBA franchise. This season the Milwaukee Bucks offered massive contract extensions to Khris Middleton and traded two players from their bench. Ultimately, Houston is giving Harden one last shot by pairing him Westbrook.
In the 2019 playoffs, however, those two games aside, James Harden was terrific. MJ in the playoffs per 36 minutes during his six title runs averaged 28.25 PPG and 32.5 PPG for the entire playoffs. Harden averaged 29.5 last season per 36 minutes in the playoffs and averaged 31.6 PPG for the whole of the playoffs.
In fairness to Harden, the Warriors with Durant are considered by many to be the most exceptional team ever. Not even Michael Jordan on the Houston Rockets could have propelled the Rockets past the Warriors. However, this fact often gets lost by the Media when assessing Harden as a player.
Last time I checked, Durant had trouble defeating the Warriors lead by the splash brothers. However, he never gets knocked for this because winning championships cures-all doubts about a player in the NBA. Until Harden wins a title, people will doubt his greatness. It just feels like James Harden is one playoff run and championship run away from being the face of the NBA and from being an All-time great.
What James Harden has been doing in the regular season the past three seasons was jordanesque. However, his play did not sustain in the playoffs.
Jordan always elevated his level of play in the playoffs and NBA finals. This is an essential feature for all great players and players that can carry the NBA brand. This feature is honestly the only thing that even separates a player like Chamberlain from Jordan. A traditional wilt Chamberlain consisted of setting records in the regular season and going home early in the playoffs. NBA fans, you can thank Bill Russell for that one. If it had not been for Bill Russell, Chamberlain would have at least six titles. Indeed, the Wilt Chamberlain's infamous 50 PPG regular-season stat in 1961-62 season dropped to 35 PPG in the playoffs. This drop was not uncommon for the silt.
Harden ranks among the greatest scorers in NBA history among the likes of Wilt Chamberlain. However, if Harden wants to succeed the King as the "Beard" of the NBA and join the upper echelon of players like Jordan, he has got to replicate his regular-season success in the playoffs.
Everybody always criticizes Ben Simmons for not having a jump shot. Well James Harden, win in the playoffs!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Michael Mannen