Culture of Hoops

The Most Important Season for James Harden


Atlantic: Celtics | Nets | Knicks | 76ers | Raptors |Division Preview
Central: Bulls | Cavaliers | Pistons | Pacers | Bucks | Division Preview
Southeast: Hawks | Hornets | Heat | Magic | Wizards | Division Preview

Pacific: Warriors | Clippers | Lakers | Suns | Kings | Division Preview
Northwest: Nuggets | Timberwolves | Thunder | Trail Blazers | Jazz | Division Preview
Southwest: Mavericks | Rockets | Grizzlies | Pelicans | Spurs | Division Preview

Top 10 by Position: PG | SG | SF | PF | C
Top 10 Lists: Sixth Men | Sophomores | X-Factors | Rookies | Games to Watch | Comeback | Contenders | Breakouts

Articles: Assessing the Cavaliers Trio | Important Season for James Harden | Return of Paul George? | Trading Rajon Rondo | Are the Nuggets This Season’s Suns? | NBA’s Best Starting Five | NBA’s Worst Starting Five | Now or Never for Durant and Thunder After Injury

Fantasy Basketball: Top 10 PGs | Top 10 SGs | Top 10 SFs | Top 10 PFs | Top 10 Cs | Sleepers, Studs, and Sinkholes | Analyzing the Schedule | BMF Mock Draft | Cavs and Cav-Nots | Like A Bosh | Rajon Injury Impact

Media Day: Clippers | Hawks | Kings | Knicks | Magic | Mavericks | Nets

Image courtesy of Derral Chen/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Derral Chen/Flickr.

James Harden is a polarizing player. The star shooting guard for the Houston Rockets has an old school game, the type that relies on deception and a quick first step more than athleticism and raw speed. His numbers last year tell the story of a top five NBA superstar: 25.4 points per game, 6.1 assists, and 4.7 rebounds. He shot 86.6% from the line and made it there 9.1 times per contest.

Numbers may tell a story, but that doesn’t mean fans have to believe it. Because in Harden’s case, he’s not a top five NBA superstar. He’s likely on the cusp of top ten territory, but cementing that tenuous status will largely depend on this season. Why? Because video game numbers in the regular season and recognition as the best shooting guard in the NBA shouldn’t cut it anymore. Harden has to deliver on a greater level. How he’s seen in the basketball world is contingent on what he delivers in the near future.

Without a doubt, Harden is exciting to watch, fun to play with in NBA 2K games, and hugely beneficial to have on any fantasy team. Much like his style of play though, these truths are deceptive. They fail to account for his horrific defense and temperamental attitude. They don’t show the dreadful playoff numbers during his last three postseason runs. Last year put these aspects on display for the NBA to see. For Harden, the lazy defense and playoff shortcomings may have already surpassed his regular season numbers and superstar status. Justified criticisms are shaping how fans see him.

He claims to be the best basketball player in the world. Show us. He states that the Rockets are better off without Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik. Prove it. That’s the kind of attitude that many fans are taking in regards to Harden. And that’s why he’s polarizing and surrounded by a dedicated coalition of haters. He makes himself a target. His defense leaves him open to ridicule and his delusions of grandeur leave him prone to doubt.

This can all change during the course of the upcoming season. How? Not necessarily with a championship for Houston, that seems beyond reach given their offseason losses. A top five Western Conference seeding and a deep playoff run though, one that Harden posts dominant numbers in, that could begin shaping his perception. A committed effort on defense and a more team oriented approach, that could begin quieting the skeptics. A game that speaks for itself and a voice that humbly refrains from bold claims, that could cause his haters to stop sharpening their fangs.

Harden may not be interested in any of these possibilities. Even articles such as this, ones that speak to degrees of negativity surrounding Houston’s star, are likely used as the proverbial fuel to the fire of a professional athlete. Understand something with certainty though, this article is not an indictment of James Harden, it’s merely an acknowledgment of his talent and shortcomings alike. He’s a star. Any reasonable basketball fan can see that. But he might not be a superstar yet and he certainly isn’t a great teammate. He also puts questionable effort into his defense and often remains a temperamental personality with the media. Like most of us, Harden is skilled, flawed, and capable of improvement.

What remains to be seen is what sort of improvements Harden makes this year. Was he aggressively attempting to improve his defense in the offseason? Have he and Howard solved their chemistry issues that plagued them last year? And most importantly, has he figured out a way to silence his own ego and simply focus on bettering his team? We’ll see. Any changes to these unknowns would bode well for Harden and the Rockets. No matter what though, fans and haters of Harden should agree on one thing. This upcoming season is the most important year of his career.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

To Top