Why hasn’t James Harden led the Rockets to a title?
Clearing up misconceptions about Harden
For as much as the Harden detractors may hate to admit it, the reality is that no single player wins a championship by himself. A recent gander of the past championship teams shows they had multiple star players that delivered in the postseason and a coach that made pivotal adjustments against their opponent, neither of which Harden has had.
Harden has also ran up against the superteam Golden State Warriors in four of the Rockets’ last six postseason trips, which has been a daunting task, as the Dubs have boasted no fewer than four future Hall of Famers at a time. But the Rockets nearly pulled off their best David vs. Goliath impression during the 2017-18 season, but were unsuccessful due to the injury to Chris Paul during the Western Conference Finals. Harden averaged 28.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and six assists throughout the series, despite being viewed as an “underperformer”.
Paul wasn’t nearly the same player during the 2018-19 season, which caused Harden’s stellar play to be ignored. Although Harden was viewed as a “choke artist” during the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals, he averaged a series-best 34.8 points, while adding seven rebounds and 5.5 assists against the Dubs.
Harden also played well during the Rockets’ recent series against the Los Angeles Lakers, as he averaged a “disappointing” 29.4 points, which was a series-best, on 50 percent from the floor and 37.8 percent from long-range.
In spite of Harden’s heroics, the Rockets were hampered by Russell Westbrook‘s quadriceps injury, which was blatantly obvious. In addition, Harden was let down by Danuel House, who wasn’t able to complete the series due to allegedly violating bubble protocol.
But Harden hasn’t let the shortcomings affect his attitude, as he’s vowed to continue to put the necessary work in to do whatever is needed to deliver a championship to the Space City.
Harden on the Rockets coming close but not being able to win a title: "It's very frustrating. Especially with the amount of work that I put in. I'm going to keep chipping away and keep going and going until I can't go anymore. I feel like we're a piece away."
— Anthony Duckett (@a_duckett) September 13, 2020
The good news for Houston Rockets fans is that Harden has at least 4-5 more years in his prime, which will always give the Rockets a chance. But the path will get more difficult starting next season, as Harden’s arch nemesis the Golden State Warriors will be back.
Harden has been one of the most hated superstars in NBA history so he’s surely going to receive 100 percent of the blame for the Rockets not having won a title under his watch. But the same crowd that feels he isn’t a championship-caliber player will have to also admit that the Rockets don’t reach the playoffs in 2012-13, 2015-16, and 2016-17 without him.
This further proves that Harden is a championship player, regardless of the false narratives being spewed about him.