It’s good to have confidence, but James Harden saying about himself that he’s the best player in the NBA is closer to comedy material, when you consider he’s probably the main reason the Houston Rockets lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs, and being “so good” is part of why Jeremy Lin was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Maybe saying he was the “main reason” is a bit harsh, but Harden was bad for most of that series. Actually, when you start thinking about how he played – selfish, ball hogging and taking one bad decision after the other, and you add his belief that he’s the best in the league, things add up. There’s no other reason why someone doing so badly and hurting his team play after play would keep on carrying to do the same thing over and over again.
Kevin McHale, a nice guy (probably), a legendary player, and a very bad head coach. One who talks about defending better but showed no sign of being able to coach his team into defending better. One who talks about better ball movement, but has about 15-20 plays that are all about James Harden dribbling the ball for 20 seconds and then either taking a tough shot, attacking the basket to reach the free throw line or dumping the ball to someone else, hurting his percentages.
When it comes to scoring, Harden is very good. He is averaging 25.7 points per game since joining the Rockets, twice finishing fifth in the NBA in scoring average. He is a good shooter, creative when it comes to creating his own shot, very dangerous when he attacks the paint and actually thinks about what he’s going to do and excellent in getting to the line, getting to the line more than anyone else in the league in 2012-2013 and ranking third in that aspect last season. On average? He takes 9.6 free throws per game with the Rockets, making 85.8% of his shots.
So what’s the catch? The best player in the NBA will obviously do things that might come at the expense of others around him, but that makes sense only when it’s good for his team. Jeremy Lin should have been the point guard when he arrived at Houston. But Harden loves the ball in his hands, even if he isn’t as good of a passer as Lin, and that sat very well with McHale and Morey, running the ship into underachieving.
The Lin-Harden backcourt duo had some nice moments, but Lin usually shined when Harden actually was willing to take a step backwards, or simply didn’t play. Lin eventually got benched for no reason at all, punished for some reason by McHale, who never liked having him on his team and couldn’t wait to get rid of him. Stat test, eye test and any other exam, Harden isn’t the best player in the league. He might think he is, but actually costing the Rockets a player who could have been great for them but is now gone is more proof of just how delusional, not just overconfident, he might be.