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James Harden Is One Championship Away From Being the Face of the NBA

Updated on July 26, 2019
Michael Mannen profile image

Sports analyst for fun. Check out my podcast: Above the Court Podcast

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, James Harden remains one of the most overlooked players in NBA history.

James 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 James Harden for the season averaged 35.4 PPG per 36 minutes of play. The highest Jordan ever averaged per 36 minutes of play during the regular season is 33.4 PPG and 34.9 for the playoffs.

James Harden did not underperform in the playoffs, he just ran into the splash brothers, again. Plus, Kevin Durant played the first three-quarters of game 5. So, the Warriors only played one game without Kevin 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 James 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. Moreover, like Giannis and Paul George, none of the top 3 candidates for MVP were able to make it into the conference finals of either conference. This sheds light on the validity of the MVP award in assessing how well a player can perform in the playoffs. Or it just means that basketball is a team sport. Either way, the Bucks, Rockets, and OKC made huge changes this offseason. OKC shipped out Russell Westbrook and Paul George and started towards nearly a half-decade rebuilt for the "Sooner' NBA franchise. The Bucks offered massive contract extensions to Middleton and shipped out two players from their bench. And 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. James 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 Kevin 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, Kevin Durant could not peat the 73 Win 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.

MJ 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 Wilt Chamberlain from Michael 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, Wilt 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.

James 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 Above the Court

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