For the past five seasons, Harden has lorded over the league in isolation scoring, taking the crown each time while he was playing for the Houston Rockets.
But what about this season? Now that he has changed teams and plays for the Brooklyn Nets let's find out if he is still the king of isolation plays.
Five best isolation players in the NBA
Note: All stats are from NBA.com’s advanced stats.
#5 Giannis Antetokounmpo - 28.4 points
Giannis Antetokounmpo was eighth last season, with 3.7 points in isolations per contest, but he has upped that to 4.9 this year.
He is tied with the OKC Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the New York Knicks’ Julius Randle. But I went with the Greek Freak because has had an effective field-goal percentage of 55.1.
The reigning NBA MVP is a handful to guard against. He can take advantage of smaller players guarding him and is faster than players his size (6’ 11”). At 1.10 points per possession, he is in the 87th percentile and second among players in this list.
Though he’s only ranked no. 5, Antetokounmpo has the highest free-throw frequency at 16.8% in isolations. On a per-game basis, Antetokounmpo is taking 9.7 free throws, which is second behind only Joel Embiid (11) this season.
#4 Luka Doncic - 28.6 points per game
The Dallas Mavericks are close to securing a second straight playoff berth, thanks to the exploits of Luka Doncic, who has turned into a scoring marvel in his third season. The Slovenian point guard is one of the finest iso players in the league, with five points in isolation situations.
Doncic makes 46.6% of his field goals in isolations and has a 55.2% effective field-goal percentage, both of which are second in this top-five list. From step-back threes to fearless forays to the basket, there are few players who are capable of outdueling an opponent one-on-one, like Luka Doncic.
#3 Kyrie Irving - 26.8 points per game
There is arguably no NBA player who elicits as many jaw-dropping moments in a game with his dribbling wizardry as Kyrie Irving. The Brooklyn Nets guard is the third-best iso player in the game today, tallying 5.1 points in isolations a night.
If you watch a Nets game with the former Rookie of the Year playing, you are going to be entertained with how well he eludes his defenders and gets off his shots both inside and out. He mesmerizes opponents and lulls them to sleep with his combination of slick ball-handling and sudden changes in direction and speed.
Irving has the highest points per possession of all players in the top five, at 1.12, which ranks him in the 90th percentile overall. In isolations, he’s as lethal as they come, with a 55.9% effective field goal percentage, which is again the highest among the top five in this 2020-21 NBA list.
#2 Damian Lillard - 28.4 points per game
In second place is one of the best scoring point guards in NBA history - Damian Lillard - who scores 5.3 points in isolation plays per game. The Portland Trail Blazers guard can shoot it from anywhere on the court and has a range that extends to the half-court line.
Every year, it seems Lillard becomes more and more dangerous as a scorer. Just ask the New Orleans Pelicans, whom he torched for 50 points on 13-of-20 field-goal shooting on March 16. His quickness and ability to finish at the rim makes him a threat whenever he has the ball.
The six-time All-Star ranks in the 85th percentile with 1.08 points per possession and is second overall in total isolation points with 317.
#1 James Harden - 25.2 points per game
NOTE: Harden’s isolation stats were separated into two parts, for the Brooklyn Nets and for the Houston Rockets, by NBA.com’s tracking data. For simplicity's sake, we’ve only considered his stats as a Nets player.
Still, at the top of the best isolation scorers in the league this season, and for the sixth time in his career, James Harden remains the NBA’s iso king.
Whether it was with the Houston Rockets (6.1 iso points per game) or with the Brooklyn Nets (8.9), Harden is at the top of the leaderboard in creating shots for himself. The man is as gifted a scorer as any the NBA has ever seen, tallying 1.07 points per possession this season.
He has become an even better all-round player with the Nets, where he has been breaking down defenses and finding open teammates, producing an average of 10.9 assists per game this campaign.
Harden has an effective field goal percentage of 52.3 and gets to the line in 15.2% of isolation possessions. His 8.3 isolation possessions for the Nets is 2.1 more than Russell Westbrook, who is in second place in the category by any player in the 2020-21 NBA.
Despite playing just 34 games for the Brooklyn Nets, the nine-time NBA All-Star ranks third in overall points in isolation situations this season, with 303. That's only 14 fewer than Lillard's 317 and eight behind Julius Randle's 311. That's considering they have played 60 and 64 games, respectively.
If one considers the 49 iso points James Harden scored in eight NBA games with the Rockets, he is no. 1, with an astounding tally of 352 points in only 42 appearances.