James Harden is arguably the most prolific scorer in the entire NBA right now. The Houston Rockets star has been trying to innovate his arsenal with new ways to get points every offseason, earning the praise of plenty of fans in the process.
ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry has now made a bold claim about Harden, labeling him as the greatest scorer the league has seen since Michael Jordan.
It’s time to admit that James Harden is the NBA’s best scorer since Michael Jordan.
On Saturday night, Harden dropped 60 points on the Atlanta Hawks in less than three quarters of play. It was another virtuoso performance by the world’s greatest offensive basketball player. Through 19 games, Harden is averaging an incredible 38.9 points per game and, barring injury, he’s on pace to win his third consecutive scoring title, something only MJ and Kevin Durant have done in the 3-point era.
But the most stunning thing about Harden isn’t his numbers — it’s his style. He’s a rarity in pro basketball, regularly inventing new fundamentals. We haven’t seen scoring numbers this big since a 23-year-old Jordan put up 37.1 PPG. Before that, the only comparison was Wilt Chamberlain’s prime in the early 1960s. And Harden thrives much like Chamberlain did — in the kinds of isolated one-on-one matchups that were supposed to be dead by now.
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Goldsberry made sure to back his words with data that proves Harden is indeed one of the best scorers of our time. Talking about isolation plays, he refers to Harden’s 60-point game against the Atlanta Hawks. Of those 60 points, 31 came straight out of isolation plays. His 17 isos were actually below his season average of 18.5, according to Second Spectrum data.
Talking about his historic efficiency, we get to know that Harden produces a predictable shot signature. His chart reveals just two areas of real activity: beyond the arc and in the paint.
This guy is set to do big things this season; if he keeps the pace and his 38.89 points per game average, it would be the third-highest PPG average in NBA history. Only Wilt Chamberlain has two seasons with a higher PPG average: 50.36 in 1961/62 & 44.83 in 1962/63.