Today we will evaluate the career of another NBA superstar. He’s a lefty with a killer step-back, and if you guessed James Harden you’re correct. Today’s topic is “How Good is James Harden?”
James Harden attended Artesia High School, located in Lakewood, CA in the Los Angeles area. His sophomore season he averaged 13.2 points, and going on to his junior season he averaged 18.8 points 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists. They won the California State Title two years in a row before headed off to college. He was named a McDonald’s All-American in 2007.
Harden committed to play basketball at Arizona State University. His freshman year he helped his team by scoring 17.8 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists. They didn’t make the 2008 NCAA Tournament, but participated in the NIT. He was named first team All-Pac-10, and all-freshman team. His sophomore season, he was on the map because people knew who James Harden was now with how he helped ASU his freshman year. He upped his numbers and averaged 20.1 points per game, 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He earned the 2009 All-Pac 10 Tournament Team, the Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year, and also an All-American. They lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but shortly after he declared for the 2009 NBA Draft.
2009 NBA Draft/Rookie Season
Harden was selected third overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder. He recorded the record for the most 3-point makes by a rookie since 1999. He made the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. He also recorded a season high of 26 points his rookie year.
Fastforwarding into the 2010-2011 season, he averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. The season was cut short because of the NBA Lockout so only 62 games were played. In the 2011-2012 season, Harden got the Sixth Man of the Year award and became the first player coming off the bench to score 40 points since 2010. He was a key factor to the Thunder making the 2012 NBA Finals. They were defeated by the Heat in five games, but OKC wanted to keep him and offered a four-year extension deal.
Harden rejected the contract extension with the Thunder and was traded for the 2012-2013 season to Houston. On OKC he played more of a supporting role to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, so this was his chance to break away from that and be the star player he wanted to be. On October 31st, 2012, he signed a contract extension with the Rockets worth 80 million for five years. In his debut with the Rockets, he dropped 37 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds. He became the first player to score 37 or more and have a double-digit assist total in a debut game. In the next game he scored 45 points, making it 79 points in his first two games. He made his first All-Star selection as a reserve in the 2013 All-Star Game. He ended up averaging 25.9 points and became the fifth player on the Rockets to reach 2,000 points in one season.
Moving on the 2013-2014 season, he was selected once again as a NBA All-Star reserve, but actually ended up starting as a replacement. He became the third player to score at least 3,000 points in his first 120 games, as a Rocket.
In the 2014-2015 season, Harden was a MVP contender. He was topping his season highs left and right. He became the first player in franchise history to have two 50 point games in a season and then a few days later he scored 41 points. The Rockets clinched the number two spot in the playoffs, but they lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. He finished the season being named to the All-NBA First team, and finished second in the MVP competition against Steph Curry.
In the 2015-2016 season, Harden finished the month of March with 457 points, 152 assists, and 102 rebounds, becoming the first player to have these numbers in a single month since Oscar Robinson.
In the 2016-2017 season, he signed a four year, $118.1 million contract extension with the Rockets. With a new coach, Harden switched positions and was now the point guard. He broke more records, and became the first player in NBA history to finish with 50 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists. He scored his 10,000th point as a Rocket and passed up Yao Ming. On Febuary 15th, Harden earned his 15th triple double on the season, and ended the season with 22, but once again he fell second to Westbrook in the MVP race.
So, starting the 2017-2018 season, he signed another contract extension with the Rockets, now $160 million for four years. This extension made his contract the richest in NBA history, which gave him six years with $228 million guaranteed, keeping him until the 2022-23 season. He became the first player to score 50 points or more in consecutive games since 2007 when Kobe Bryant had the record. The Rockets finished as the number one seed for the first time ever! James Harden received his first scoring title and was named the regular season MVP for the 2017-2018 season.
Going into the 2018-2019 season, Harden continued to apply pressure, but still coming up short of a title. He continued to break even more records with his scoring abilities. He scored 30 points in 32 consecutive games, tying Wilt Chamberlain for the record. He ended the season scoring 2,700 points and was the third person in history to do this. Once the playoffs began, Harden had the worst game of his life and started the game off 0-15 from the field. He was a finalist for the MVP award but didn’t win it.
This past season, 2019-2020, he experienced low shooting numbers in his first few games, but that turned around quickly. He became the first player to ever score 50+ points and 10+ in back to back games. He was selected as an All-Star starter and was once again a finalist for MVP, but it went to Giannis for a second year in a row.
So good really is James Harden? He’s an all-time leader in four point plays, and leads the Rockets in assists. He’s unguardable, quick, and shifty, but he is too independent? He’s still searching for that NBA title, but maybe he needs some extra help to help accomplish that milestone.