NBA 2019-20: James Harden still has a lot left to prove
There is no doubt that James Harden is one of the most talented scorers in basketball history. His individual scoring statistics, coupled with the records he has got along the way, are quite staggering.
In a nutshell, Harden is an incredible basketball player in the regular season.
But for a while now the regular season has simply been a prelude to the real competitive basketball games - the NBA playoffs. Harden doesn't far quite as well in this context; he has performed worse in the playoffs in each of the past five years, in scoring as well as assists.
Let's compare that with two of his contemporaries - Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James. Both of them perform significantly better in the playoffs as compared to the regular season, and in the process have collected five NBA championships and five NBA Finals MVP between them.
Harden, on the other hand, has collected a grand total of zero. Since he has become a starter in the NBA, he has gone to zero NBA Finals. (He was a sixth man when OKC reached the finals earlier this decade).
With his recent scoring spree against teams that are in general still in their warm-up stages of the year, a ludicrous comparison of Harden and Michael Jordan has been doing the rounds. For the younger audience whose conscious life does not involve experiencing Jordan at his prime, let's simply look at the numbers.
Jordan was always better in the playoffs. He had the current Harden-type numbers during the most competitive time of the year. (His career playoff average is 33.4).
Let's also add the six NBA finals he won and the six Finals MVPs he bagged. The recent comparison between Harden and Jordan is similar to comparing the numbers of a G-League superstar with that of an NBA player.
The regular season and playoffs do not demand the same skill of basketball, or the same kind of intensity. Until Harden proves that he can perform at a level way better than he has historically done in the playoffs and actually get his team to win consequential basketball matches, he will never be anywhere near the pantheon of basketball greats.