Yesterday, J.J. Redick said that James Harden is like the modern day Manu Ginobili. How accurate is this statement?
James Harden is one of the top players in the league. To Rockets fans, he is a top 5 player in the league.
The Beard really came into his own last season when asked to take control of the offense at the point guard position. His craftiness and court vision allowed him to dominate the rest of the league.
His craftiness has gotten Harden compared to one main player throughout his career: Manu Ginobili. This comparison was reinforced yesterday when J.J. Reddick shared his thoughts on the matter.
Take a look:
J.J. Redick believes James Harden is a “modern” Manu Ginobili. pic.twitter.com/1Ngn0CdcpD
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) September 6, 2017
How accurate is this statement? Let’s discuss.
Harden vs. Ginobili
The two players are similar but very different at the same time. No disrespect to the future Hall of Famer, but James Harden is better now than Manu ever was.
Manu, the two-time All-Star, never had the opportunity to be the number one option on a team, so his full potential is actually unknown. Playing as the third option behind Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, Manu has never averaged more than 20 points a game during a season. He still has had decent minutes throughout his career, averaging over 25 per game.
Even though he was the third option on the Spurs, Manu still was able to put up around 12 or 13 shots per game during his prime years with a field goal percentage of around 45%. Compare this to James Harden, who put up 10 shots per game during his Sixth Man of the Year season with a 49% field goal percentage. The Beard also averaged 16.8 points per game that season, which would be the third-best average of his career if Manu had those numbers.
In advanced stats, Harden and Manu have comparable usage percentages in their careers, which is interesting. During both their primes, Manu averaged a USG% in the mid to high 20s, while Harden regularly has one in the low 30s.
Also, the two have one very similar move: the classic Eurostep.
The two players are also very different. One main factor is defense. Ginobili has been a great defender throughout his career, while Harden is average at best. However, the Beard is not as bad of a defensive player as some people say.
Also, Harden has significantly better court vision than Ginobili. That’s not a knock on Manu, who is a fantastic passer himself, but more of a praise for Harden who has an elite passing ability. Even if he was the number one option on a D’Antoni-led team, I couldn’t see Manu averaging 29+ points with 11+ assists a game. Manu and Harden are similar, yes, but Harden is more like a much-improved version of Ginobili.
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Once again, no offense to the future Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili. He has had an incredible career and sacrificed his own potential success for that of the Spurs. Still, J.J. Redick was wrong when he said James Harden is “essentially” a newer version of Manu.
This comparison could be brought to a whole different level if Manu had a season where he was the first option. But he never did. Based on athleticism and personal skills, though, I can confidently say that Harden is the better player.
*All stats via Basketball-Reference*