NBA

Why James Harden Will Never Win an NBA Championship

Sep 8, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (middle) tries to pass the ball against Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso (left) and forward Anthony Davis (3) during the first half of game three in the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets once again failed to make a run in this year’s playoffs. Former Coach Mike D’Antoni parted ways with the organization after another wasted year. All-star James Harden seems to be getting more frustrated with his teammates as the years go on.

Harden had his eyes set on winning the Rockets’ first title since the Hakeem Olajuwon days; it just wasn’t the year. As great of a scorer and facilitator Harden is, he cannot create the right chemistry with his teammates to lead them to a title. Harden will join an elite list of players never to win a championship; the list includes Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Elgin Baylor, and Charles Barkley.

*All stats are from basketball-reference.com

Sixth Man in Oklahoma

Harden has shown his greatness ever since his 2009 league debut with the Thunder as a sixth man. In his three years with the Thunder, Harden raised his points per game average from 9.9 to 16.8. He had his best year in assists, overall field goal percentage, free-throw percentage, and minutes played up to that point. Because of this stellar jump, Harden won Sixth Man of the Year and helped Oklahoma City reach the Finals.

The Thunder had their chance in 2012 when they took on the Heat in the finals; Harden was a huge part of why they did not win that series. In the five games, he had three games under 10 points. The Thunder were minus 17 with him on the court in game 5 when he had 19 points. He averaged less than 13 points in 33 minutes per game.

Harden was showing out in the regular season, but he was too inconsistent in the playoffs. He brought OKC down in the finals and asked for too much money the following season. As a result, the Thunder traded him to the Rockets for two future first-round picks from Houston.

Harden’s Transfer to Houston

When Harden arrived in Houston, he immediately became their best player and averaged just under 26 points per game. Harden has led the Rockets to the playoffs in each of his eight seasons with the team but has never gotten past the conference finals.

When Houston traded their primary big man Clint Capela to the Hawks, they had an anticipated, fast fall and dropped to the West’s sixth seed. However, they made their way back to the fourth seed and beat Chris Paul’s Thunder in the first round but fell to Lebron and the Lakers in the quarterfinals.

Houston, We Don’t Have Takeoff

Harden’s issues on and off the court begin with his playstyle, chemistry issues, and cockiness. Sure, he is one of the hardest guys to guard in the game, but can the dynamic backcourt of Westbrook and Harden lead them anywhere?

Harden is one of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen. He can shoot threes over anyone. He can attack the basket and finish with a foul. As a guard, you don’t want to give up your body as much as he does – he has had some scary falls. He attacks the basket primarily to get a foul, not even to finish, which is why so many people hate his game. Harden tends to put his knee up into the defender’s stomach and draw sufficient contact for the refs to call a foul.

Although Harden played great on the Thunder, he has not created amazing chemistry with any teammates besides Westbrook with the Rockets. You could say that he and Capela played outstanding together, but if that were the case, Capela would still be a part of the team. Then Chris Paul came along. Obviously, Paul seemed to take over Harden’s position as the primary ball-handler, and Harden did not like it.

Paul commented on his relationship with Harden earlier before the series:

We don’t talk or communicate or nothing like that, but that’s all good and well. I wish him the best in anything and everything he does. That’s one thing I think people fail to realize, sometimes, in these situations. Sometimes you have teammates, and it is for that period of time. But that’s okay. You can wish each other well going forward. It doesn’t mean you have to be kumbaya, and it doesn’t mean you have to be enemies. At the end of the day, everybody’s got a life to live.

On the contrary, Harden has come to work with his teammates well and seemed extremely happy getting rid of Paul for his old pal Westbrook.

Solutions?

If Harden does not listen to the help of his coaches or teammates, he will not be able to win a championship. The difference between him and Karl Malone or Charles Barkley is that he genuinely has the opportunity to win a title, but it doesn’t seem like his attitude will change anytime in the future. Malone and Barkley had to face Jordan’s Bulls.

Unless Houston can find a coach to make Harden a better team player, he might as well end this quest to earn a title. The only team that could become a top-five title contender with Harden is the Orlando Magic. Harden can run a pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop offense with all-star Nikola Vucevic, not to mention Aaron Gordon’s jaw-dropping athletic ability or Jonathan Isaac’s defensive prestige.

Unfortunately, Harden doesn’t see his flaws and can only pinpoint the mistakes of his teammates. Now, sitting on his couch watching the Lakers vs. Heat Finals, he needs to take a long look in the mirror and decide who the REAL problem is.

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