Who should be in the Houston Rockets’ starting five?
Guard: James Harden
There is no team on Earth that can be assembled that would not have James Harden in the starting lineup. Some pundits would argue against this assertion, but they’re simply being ignorant to the realities of the Universe.
James Harden is the best offensive player in the world and he has been for some time. Nearly every traditional and advanced metric backs it up. Here is a list of metrics that Harden led the league in last season.
Points: 2335 Points per game: 34.3 Win Shares: 13.1
Value over a replacement player: 7.3 Raptor WAR: +19.8
Raptor: +10.5 Offensive Raptor: +8.5
While Harden hasn’t been anointed by the media as the best player in the league, he has been playing like it for the past five seasons. Over this period Harden has averaged 31.7 points, 8.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds in 36.7 minutes per game.
When compared to Michael Jordan’s best five-year stretch, 1986-87 to 1990-91, Harden is nearly the G.O.A.T.’s equal. Jordan averaged 33.9 points, 6.1 assists, and 6.3 rebounds in 39.3 minutes per game over that time frame. However, on a per 36-minute basis, they both averaged 31.1 points a game with Harden besting Jordan in both assists and rebounds by even greater margins.
Unfortunately, there is a mental block that persists in the national media that prevents a player who has not won a championship from being named the best in the league. It has been forgotten but Jordan was only deemed the best player in the league at the end of that five-year stretch when he finally won the 1991 NBA finals, in a season that saw him average his fewest points per game over that five-year period.
James Harden is awesome, as long as he is Houston he’ll be at the center of everything they do on offense. With the addition of Christian Wood and a revamped pick and roll attack, Harden should lead the league in scoring for a fourth consecutive season and if he doesn’t then he’ll probably lead it in assists.
James Harden might not be the G.O.A.T. but he has the best claim to the title of the G.O.R.N, the greatest of right now. Don’t take Harden for granted, because this type of greatness doesn’t last forever.