Sportswriter and analyst for fun. Sometimes I will write about other topics.
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 continues to amaze NBA fans.
Last season Harden had a great scoring streak, with 32 consecutive games with at least 30 points. Harden averaged 41.1 PPG during the string. Wilt Chamberlain is the only other player with 25 or more straight 30-point games.
Harden remains, however, one of the most underrated players in NBA and modern NBA history.
Harden's score streak is considered by many to be the most remarkable scoring streak in modern NBA history. The beards streak is, in fact, the longest since the merger of NBA-ABA in 1976. Harden scored 18 times a minimum of 40 points, and 4 separate games a minimum of 50 points.
Equally impressive is that Harden averaged 35.4 PPG per 36 minutes of play for the season. The highest Michael Jordan ever averaged for 36 minutes of play during the regular season is 33.4 PPG and 34.9 for the playoffs.
Contrarily to what many say, Harden has not underperformed in the playoffs, he has just continually ran into the Splash Brothers.
After seeing game 6 of the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals, the Golden State Warriors ruined Harden’s entire regular season success. It changed the optics of his entire postseason run. Whether or not critics want to admit it, subconsciously, this definitely played into Harden not getting the 2018-19 NBA 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 face of the NBA.
The Oklahoma City Thunder traded Russell Westbrook and Paul George and started over with nearly a decade worth of first round picks to help rebuild their franchise. This season the Milwaukee Bucks gave a major contract extensions to Khris Middleton. At the end of the day, Houston is giving Harden one last shot by pairing him with Russell Westbrook.
In the 2019 playoffs, though, these two games apart, James Harden was terrific. Jordan in the playoffs, for 36 minutes, during his six championship runs averaged 28.25 PPG and 32.5 PPG. Harden scored 29.5 per 36 minutes in the playoffs last season and averaged 31.6 PPG for all of the playoffs.
To be fair to Harden, the Warriors with Durant on their roster are considered by many to be the most outstanding squad ever. Not even Jordan on the Houston Rockets could have powered the Rockets past the Warriors. However, this point is always lost to the media when it comes to judging Harden as a player.
Last time I checked, Durant had trouble beating the Warriors, led by the Splash Brothers. However, he's never knocked on this because winning the championships cures-all doubts about an NBA player. Until Harden wins the NBA championship, critics will doubt his excellence. It just seems like James Harden is a playoff run, and a championship way from being the face of the NBA. And, at the end of the day, from being considered an all-time great player.
What Harden has been doing in the regular season over the past three seasons has been "jordanesque."
Jordan's play standard improved in the playoffs and the NBA finals. This is a crucial attribute for all the great players and players who have a name for the NBA. Frankly, this trait is the only thing that separates a player like Chamberlain from Jordan. The standard Chamberlain NBA season consisted of breaking records during the regular season and going home early in the playoffs.
Fans of the NBA, you can thank Bill Russell for this one. If it wasn't for Russell, Chamberlain would have at least six titles. Indeed, Chamberlain's legendary 50 regular-season PPG stat in the 1961-62 season slipped to 35 PPG in the playoffs. This drop wasn't uncommon for Chamberlain.
Harden ranks among the top scorers in NBA history among the likes of players like Chamberlain. But if Harden wants to succeed the King as the "Beard" of the NBA and join the upper echelon of players like Jordan, he has to repeat his regular-season performance in the playoffs.
Everyone is still criticizing Ben Simmons for not developing a jump shot. Well, James Harden, win 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