James Harden is among the best players in recent NBA history with a glowing resume. He is a one-time All-NBA Second team selection, six-time All-NBA First team selection, nine-time All-Star, three-time scoring champ, 2011-2012 Sixth Man of the Year, and the 2018-2019 NBA Most Valuable Player. Yet, despite all of this, Harden is continuously underrated.
Currently, he sits at 28th on the NBA’s all-time scoring leaders, ahead of players like Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, Elgin Baylor, and even Larry Bird. In 2018-2019 James Harden had the 7th highest scoring average per game with 36.1 points per game. His scoring output alone would be incredible, but the fact that he averaged top 10 all-time scoring numbers while only playing 36.1 minutes per game.
Among the top 22 single-season scoring averages, the only other time any player made the top 22 in less than 37 minutes was in 2019-2020, when James Harden averaged 34.3 points in 36.5. His level of scoring in his career is something that we will probably never see again.
James Harden is different pic.twitter.com/PvWw67dws9
— Trey (@TreyB_PSN) July 15, 2022
Now one of the biggest knocks on his current game is that he isn’t scoring like this anymore. This is true. He only averages 23.1 points per game over his last two seasons while adding another massive twist to his game. Instead of averaging 30 plus points, Harden now combines his 23.1 points per game along with 10.5 assists per game. This past season James Harden averaged 10.3 assists per game, second to only Chris Paul, showing that he’s more than just a scorer, but also an elite, top-tier playmaker for his teammates.
3PT% splits with James Harden on/off
Tobias Harris: 39.4 / 35.4
Joel Embiid: 41.7 / 35.6
Tyrese Maxey: 48.7 / 40.6
Matisse Thybulle: 39.4 / 28.8
Danny Green: 47.1 / 35.9
Georges Niang: 41.7 / 40.0
Shake Milton: 35.3 / 31.9
Making all of his teammates better pic.twitter.com/Lzp7TsOo2V
— ً (@_itsnotmatt) July 9, 2022
Few times in history has a player performed so incredibly in his past that All-NBA level stats are viewed as a down season. Last season Harden averaged 22.0 points per game, 10.3 assists per game, and 7.7 rebounds per game on 41.0/33.0/87.7 shooting splits. This would be a career year for most other players in the NBA, but because of how incredible James Harden has been in his career, he is now being continuously underrated.
Harden is on a mission pic.twitter.com/2avKPydU9u
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) July 14, 2022
Beyond just the phenomenal counting stats, he has been to the playoffs every single year. While it’s true that he has never won a championship (yet), something should be said for the fact that he has made the playoffs every single year of his career, usually as the leader of his team. His leadership can’t be questioned at this point. With 149 career playoff games played (6th highest among active players), and more to come this season, James Harden will be viewed as an all-time great by the time his career comes to an end.