It feels like ages ago that James Harden was considered one of the top five players in the league. However, it was just in the 2019-20 season that he clinched third place in MVP voting, leading the league with an impressive 34.3 points per game.
While Harden may not be at that level anymore, reports of his decline have been overstated. He remains an All-Star caliber player, and according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, he would have made last year’s team as an injury replacement had he informed commissioner Adam Silver earlier of his availability.
At 34 years old, Harden’s game has seen changes in certain areas while maintaining an elite status in others. Here’s a detailed evaluation of his performance entering his 15th season in the league.
James Harden’s Performance Assessment:
– Harden’s exceptional passing ability has been somewhat underrated. He led the league in assists twice, including the previous season with an average of 10.7 per game.
– He showcased remarkable passing skills, recording over 20 assists twice, including a game with 21 assists, which tied a franchise record for the Sixers.
– Importantly, these assists aren’t just numbers on the board. Harden has consistently contributed to top-five offenses in the past three seasons, consistently registering double-digit assists.
– Notably, Harden’s driving ability has seen a decline, with a noticeable drop in his finishing at the rim by about seven percentage points since his MVP days.
– This reduced separation has led to a decrease in his aggressiveness during drives, evident in his tendency to pass out of layups rather than challenging defenders at the rim, a characteristic of his younger days.
– Additionally, his free throw rate has significantly dropped, now averaging 6.2 attempts per game, down from double digits in his prime.- Harden’s defensive reputation is mixed, often criticized for lapses in effort and allowing opponents to blow past him.
– Despite this, he possesses positive defensive attributes, including decent defensive rebounding skills and the strength to hold up well in post play, making him a valuable asset in switching schemes.
– Harden’s defensive performance tends to be inconsistent, but when focused, as seen in moments of last year’s playoffs, he can rise above being a liability.- Harden generally falls within the top 30 players according to various media outlets. Rankings place him between 16th and 36th, indicating he’s considered a borderline All-Star player.
– Advanced metrics echo this sentiment, positioning him around 16th to 17th in terms of impact and performance.
– This ranking aligns with the votes from fans, players, and media, placing him among the top five Eastern Conference guards last season.- While Harden has excelled in important regular-season games, his playoff performances have been more inconsistent. Notably, he faced criticism for his Game 7 performance, where he struggled with shooting and turnovers.
– Despite playoff challenges, over the course of a full season, Harden still demonstrates proficiency in three-point shooting, steering high-powered offenses, and excelling as a distributor.
James Harden’s evolution as a player showcases a mix of strengths and adjustments. While he may not be the dominant force he once was, he still possesses qualities that make him a valuable asset to any team.