ESPN’s NBArank keeps generating controversy around the league. These lists always have something that bothers people, but it looks like this one was made to trigger a lot of fans and specialists.
One of the main topics to discuss, asides from the top three players in the list, is the fact that James Harden is ranked fifth, when plenty of people don't believe he deserves to be there, given his lack of success in the playoffs and the way he plays when his team is in the biggest need.
ESPN’s Max Kellerman is one of those people who claim the Beard is not a top 5 NBA player until he proves otherwise when it matters the most. During Friday’s edition of First Take, Kellerman went at it, explaining why he believes Harden doesn’t deserve the spot he was given by ESPN ‘experts’. When asked if he believed Harden would ever win another MVP award, Kellerman replied:
“I couldn’t care less if he wins another MVP. The MVP in the NBA is a joke. Again, more than 50% of the teams make the playoffs, there is no such thing in the history of basketball, ‘that guy was the MVP, his team didn’t make the playoffs.' (...) So, then wait till the end of the playoffs to say who’s MVP, who overall would you like to have.
“Let me say this about Harden. Well, in this playoff series he did well. He needs to come through under pressure, like Steph Curry, and then this season, this last Finals, when his team needed the most, which I hadn’t seen yet from him, in the Finals, he was killing it from three, he was hitting those big shots, not just taking them, hitting them and I saw from Steph for the first time in his career, when his team needed him the most on the biggest stage, him being the biggest version of himself, we have not seen that from James Harden, period. Like when he was bringing the ball up the floor and the game was on the line and they’re at Golden State, they had a chance to steal one, I’m sitting there going, he dribbles it off his foot, then he takes the three, but he’s not even looking to hit it, he wants to jump under Draymond Green legs looking for the refs to bail him out. I think he has it in him to be a champion, but he’s got to do it when it matters most and until he does that, you want to call him top 5? You can’t, I think that's a stretch.”
Even though this is a controversial take, Kellerman is not saying anything wrong. Harden has been a machine during the regular season, but every time he has had to face the Golden State Warriors in recent years, he just can’t get the job done. Perhaps now that the Warriors aren’t the same powerful team they used to be, and the addition of Russell Westbrook to the Rockets, Harden will have more chances to beat the Dubs.
However, even if he’s able to do that, he’ll have to overcome bigger obstacles on his way to winning the championship, which makes this job even harder for the All-Star.