Fellow Houstonian Jimmy Butler gave Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden a lot of respect recently, labeling him the most unstoppable player in the NBA today. Here’s why Butler was right in that assessment.
In case you missed it, former Houston Rockets target Jimmy Butler offered quite high praise for their superstar guard James Harden recently. Butler was conducting an interview on behalf of the Player’s Tribune and offered his thoughts on which player in today’s league is the most unstoppable.
It’s easy to understand why Butler would give Harden this honor given the season the Beard is having. For starters, Harden has increased his scoring during each of the last six years, not to mention how he’s on pace to lead the league in scoring for his third consecutive season.
Harden has always been able to figure out ways to reinvent his offensive game, whether it be adding the step back or adding other moves similar to his side-jumper in advance of the 2019-20 season, which he’s used sparingly thus far in the 2019-20 campaign.
As we all know, Harden had 30-plus points in 32 consecutive games during last season, which was the second-most in NBA history. Harden averaged 36.1 points per game during that season and has topped that number with 37.7 points per game so far this season. It seemed nearly impossible for Harden to top off his record-setting season with more points and scoring methods, but if there’s a player who could pull it off, it’s certainly The Beard.
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) November 26, 2019
What’s more impressive about this season is the fact that Harden’s current 37.7 points per game would be the most since Wilt Chamberlain‘s 44.8 points per game during the 1962-63 season, which is rare territory considering that Michael Jordan played in that same span. This actually coincides with general manager Daryl Morey’s theory that Harden is a better offensive player than Jordan, which was actually a little bit unfair to both players.
Part of what makes Harden so unstoppable (aside from his ability to drill 3-pointers) is the fact that he’s grown adept at drawing fouls, as he’s led the league in free-throw attempts in each of the last five years, not counting this season, which he’s also on pace for again.
It’s also possible that part of the reason Butler is saying this about Harden is that he’s not fared well against Harden and the Rockets. Since Butler’s first All-Star season during the 2014-15 season, he’s faced off against Harden’s Rockets 15 times (including the playoffs) and Harden has averaged 27.07 points per game on 36.7 percent from downtown and 90.7 percent from the charity stripe. In addition, Butler’s teams have gone 5-10 against Harden and the Rockets.
This could possibly be part of the reason why Butler had the Rockets on his short list of teams he was interested in joining heading into the 2019-20 season. But above all else, it speaks volumes for a four-time All-Star like Butler to give Harden this credit. Since the interview, Harden and the Rockets defeated Butler’s Miami Heat (although Butler wasn’t able to suit up due to illness).
Hopefully, Harden will continue to find additional ways to prevent opposing defenses from containing him as the season goes on.