Unfortunately for McGrady, the postseason question falls heavily in Harden’s favor as well. Sure, McGrady wasn’t healthy during each of the Rockets’ trips to the postseason, and he played a large part in guiding them to the playoffs during each of their four trips.
McGrady had three playoff appearances with the Houston Rockets and never made it past the first round. Granted, McGrady was the leading scorer and facilitator during the Rockets’ 2005 series against the Dallas Mavericks, as he averaged 30.7 points and 6.7 assists. This ultimately wasn’t enough to lift the Rockets to the second round though.
During the 2007 series against the Utah Jazz, T-Mac was also the leading scorer for the series, as he averaged 25.3 points per game, albeit on 39.4 percent from the field and a measly 25 percent from long-range, as the Rockets were defeated within seven games. The Rockets had a similar outcome during the 2008 opening round playoff series against the Jazz, as the Rockets were eliminated within seven games, while McGrady’s 27 points led all players in scoring. During that series, McGrady performed horrid from long-range, as he made 20.8 percent of his 3-pointers, while also making just 42.5 percent of his field goal attempts.
Although T-Mac put up big numbers during each of the Rockets’ trips to the postseason, the Rockets only won eight postseason games in which he was a part of. McGrady averaged 30 points in just one series, and only made 37 percent of his 3-pointers once also. In addition, he never made 46 percent of his field goal attempts in any of the Rockets’ postseason matchups.
On the flip side, Harden has led the Rockets past the first round in four of their seven trips to the playoffs, which further negates the argument that he fails to deliver in the postseason. This includes the 2016-17 season, in which Harden was the Rockets’ only All-Star and everyone knew who the ball was going to. In spite of that, the Rockets defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder while Harden posted averages of 33.3 points, seven assists, and 6.4 rebounds.
Harden has also led the Rockets to two trips to the Western Conference Finals, and possibly even a trip to the NBA Finals were it not for former Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul suffering a hamstring injury in 2018. That moment will forever be viewed as one of the biggest “what-if” moments in franchise history, and it was a catastrophic blow to the Rockets’ chances of defeating the Golden State Warriors.
During the 2018-19 season, Harden nearly single-handedly pushed the Warriors to the brink of elimination, as the Rockets extended the series to six games, while Harden’s 34.8 points led the series. During that series, Harden averaged 34.8 points, seven rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.2 steals, while hitting 35.1 percent of his triples and going 44.3 percent from the field.
The Rockets have never missed the playoffs during the Harden era, and they’ve racked up 37 postseason victories during his tenure.
Advantage: James Harden