Is James Harden the missing piece for the Dallas Mavericks?
The Dallas Mavericks had their sights set on creating their own little European Union with plans to pursue Giannis Antetokounmpo in the summer of 2021 to partner with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. However, Giannis burst that bubble when he signed a five-year contract extension to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The franchise is still in a good place long term because Luka Doncic is a legitimate MVP candidate at only 21-years-old. Players that are this good at this young of an age end usually finish their careers with multiple championships before being enshrined in the basketball hall of fame.
However, one great player doesn’t guarantee anything and the Mavericks will need to surround Doncic with a championship roster over the next decade. Adding James Harden would give the Mavericks two of the league’s ten best players and make them a favorite to secure the franchise’s second championship.
Outside of the hurdles that have to be cleared to trade for Harden, there are real concerns that a partnership of Doncic and Harden might not work on the court. Last season, Doncic and Harden posted the second and third highest usage rates in the league.
Having two high-usage players isn’t a death blow for a team’s championship aspirations but it does create a situation where Harden and Doncic’s best attributes become redundant next to each other. Neither has had to play off the ball much in their careers and it may not be something that they’re any good at.
That being said, having Harden and Doncic take turns running the offense could see them both increase their efficiency and save their energy for the playoffs and crunch time. While both are ball-dominant creators their games are not identical.
Doncic’s assist-percentage last season of 45.7-percent was 10-percent better than Harden’s and his rebounding rate of 14.7-percent is elite for a perimeter player. Harden on the other hand is a far more efficient scorer as he posted a 62.6-percent true shooting percentage compared to Doncic’s 58.5-percent.
A backcourt of Doncic and Harden in a spread pick and roll system could pick apart defenses at will. Neither are great defenders but Harden’s reputation is far more negative than reality and Doncic is a fantastic defensive rebounder that can use his length and size to defend front-court players and wings.
Harden is not the perfect piece next to Doncic but they’re both basketball savants who have always made their teammates better. Every team is better with James Harden and the Mavericks are no different, but do they have enough to secure him?
Next: How much is too much?