Without a doubt, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden are two of the most acclaimed superstar players in the NBA. They are also consistent MVP favorites and in fact, have been favorites for the last two MVP awards. As a result, many fans and media members have gone back and forth deciding who is the better player that has the most impact on the game.
But more recently, Harden and Giannis have started quite a beef with each other. As the main rivals for the past two years in MVP voting, this makes sense. Giannis managed to take a jab at James by stating he doesn’t pass the ball, while Harden has fired back by stating that Giannis is simply lucky to be close to 7-feet tall without any real skill.
While both statements are clearly untrue, this is a testament to their growing rivalry. It is time to decide which player is more dominant in the game and if they can indeed be separated from one another.
Inside Scoring – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Harden is a beast at attacking the rim and finishing inside. In fact, that’s maybe his most potent method of scoring the ball. He uses his incredible handles to beat his defender to the rim at any given time to finish, usually with an and-one.
But Giannis is better inside, mainly due to his height and length. Giannis is simply unguardable down low, and can seemingly throw it down over defenders with ease. Especially when Giannis attacks the rim himself, he simply cannot be stopped without fouling him. Harden keeps it close but Giannis takes this one.
Outside Scoring – James Harden
This one is a no-brainer. Harden is one of the game’s greatest offensive perimeter players, who can create his own shots and drain tough contested threes in the face of helpless defenders. His step-back three is becoming one of the best offensive go-to moves in NBA history, and Harden always finds a way to get it off. With 4.6 three-pointers per game, James Harden is unstoppable from the downtown.
Giannis, on the other end, is a liability from the perimeter. In fact, this is a glaring weakness in his game that needs to be addressed if he wants to take his team to the next level in the playoffs and possibly win the championship. Harden easily takes this one.
Playmaking – James Harden
Both players are the main ball handlers and scorers on their respective teams and are almost equal in finding open guys for shots since they are incredible scorers. But James Harden takes this one because he has been an incredible playmaker since he entered the league. Even with the OKC Thunder, Harden was the primary ball-handler when he was the sixth man of the year.
In Houston, the entire offense runs through Harden and he always finds open guys when double-teamed.
Giannis is also a good playmaker and has the ability to take over the game with his scoring like James Harden. With the Bucks, everything runs through Giannis and he always comes through by scoring the ball or dishing it out. Giannis (5.8 APG) is one of the best playmakers in his position, but Harden (7.3 APG) edges him out here.
Athleticism – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Harden is a very strong guard and also explosive with a quick first step, but Giannis is a freakish athlete. There is no debate here as we haven’t seen a player who can move around the court with the kind of length that Giannis has.
He can get from one end of the court to another with a few dribbles, something we have never seen before from power forward. He is also tall, getting stronger, and the the the has great leaping ability.
James is a great athlete, but Giannis is on another level as possibly the most freakish athlete in the game today.
Defense – Giannis Antetokounmpo
As great as James Harden is on offense, he is not a valuable defensive player. While he picked it up over the last two years, he is back to playing almost zero defense on the floor. He simply doesn’t have the desire or the quick feet to stick with defenders, although he is a very good defender inside the paint for a strange reason.
On the other hand, Giannis is a scary defender. He can be the most dominant defensive player in the league if he wants to, as he has the length to block shots and also the quick feet to stay with guards. When defending bigger players, Giannis has the height and length to stop then from easy finishes around the basket. It won’t be long before Giannis becomes one of the top defensive players in the game gunning for the DPOY award.
Rim Protection – Giannis Antetokounmpo
While both players can get stops while defending the basket, Giannis is easily the better rim protector with 1.1 BPG per game.
This is obvious because Giannis is nearly 7-feet tall with an incredible wingspan. Giannis can simply lift his hands up and be a better defender than most NBA players, so imagine when you add the defensive skillset that Giannis has. Giannis is easily the better rim protector here.
Rebounds – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Harden plays in a system that allows him to grab easy rebounds, and he is particularly effective at hauling boards with the intention of kick-starting the fast break. But Giannis Antetokounmpo is a master on the boards, averaging 13.7 RPG, a whopping number that clearly indicates he is probably the best rebounder in the league alongside Andre Drummond. Another no-brainer for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Clutch – James Harden
While many doubt Harden’s ability to perform under pressure, especially in the playoffs, Harden has come up in the clutch many times before. While this has been mostly in the regular season, this is enough of a sample size to know that Harden can be a big-time shot-maker when needed most.
On the other end, Giannis has an inability to be consistent from the perimeter and this hurts his ability to take and make clutch shots. Not to mention, Giannis is still getting his feet wet as a superstar in this league. In possibly a matter of years, or sooner, Giannis should become a more dominant clutch performer. For now, James takes this one thanks to his shot-creating ability.
Leadership – Even
Both Harden and Giannis are the best players on their teams and lead by their work ethic and dominance on the court. But they still have some ways to go to be a vocal leader like LeBron James is, for example. Harden is slowly becoming a more effective leader and seems to be better at holding other players accountable. Similarly, Giannis will start becoming a more effective leader as he gains more experience in the league.
Right now, both players are extremely talented superstars who prefer to lead by their play on the court. As a result, this is even.
Basketball I.Q. – James Harden
Both players clearly have high basketball I.Q., but James Harden is a master at manipulating defenders and even the refs to gain an advantage. Not to mention, he is the best offensive player in the game today.
The fact that Harden can lead to a bucket on every possession, either by scoring or assisting, is a testament to his supremely high basketball I.Q. He is a gifted passer, an incredible scorer, and an entire offensive system on his own. Along with Kevin Durant, Harden is the most dominant scorer we have seen since Kobe Bryant. Giannis is also gifted with a high basketball I.Q., and he can do everything on the floor on any given night. But what separates Harden is his consistency since he’s been in the league, so he takes the advantage.
Scoring – James Harden
Giannis is an exceptional scorer, but there is no doubt that Harden is a better scorer. As a matter of fact, one could argue that Harden is a top-five offensive player of all time. Right now, he is averaging 34.9 points per game even with Russell Westbrook on the floor. Last season, he was amazing with 36.1 points per game, but that wasn’t enough for the MVP Award.
Harden can do it all offensively and has a variety of moves and counter moves every time he is double-teamed. Harden can score at will by taking it to the rim or stepping back for his patented three-pointersn he’s at the stripe, he is automatic and seems to always get to the line whenever he wants.
On the other side, Giannis struggles from the free-throw line and still cannot hit at a consistent rate from the perimeter. Giannis still scores the ball inside at a more efficient clip, but Harden is the better overall scorer and it isn’t that close.
Impact – Giannis Antetokounmpo
On both ends of the floor, their impact is very close.
Giannis is a monster offensively and is almost as good defensively. Harden is simply the most unstoppable offensive force since Kobe Bryant.
So who has a greater impact?
Giannis has a better overall game, including an ability to grab more boards and be a dominant defensive presence. He is one of the best two-way players in the game and can do everything on the floor including setting up teammates or blocking shots when he doesn’t score.
Harden, on the other end, has a greater impact offensively in terms of putting points on the board for his team. But he also gives up points on the defensive end, ultimately giving Giannis the favor of greater impact. Giannis is simply a much better defender and therefore has a greater overall impact on the game.
1 on 1 Game – James Harden
As good as Giannis is on one under the basket, Harden is simply the best one on one player in the world right now. He can beat you off the dribble, get to the basket with ease, and nail deep threes in your face. Harden is a master at breaking ankles and leaving defenders in the dust, so this one is not close.
Giannis relies on his length to score around the basket, but his lack of a consistent jump shot renders him ineffective when the paint is clogged. Giannis is still a superstar player at beating his man one on one, but Harden is simply number one and this can’t be denied.