James Harden is one of the game's greatest ever scorers. He is the full package on offense due to his shooting ability and unbelievably quick handles. Harden's first step often gets him to the rim and he has worked tremendously hard on his game over the years. Despite what his critics say, Harden is a magical offensive player who has built his game off of his ability to draw fouls and drain threes.
3 straight scoring titles and some massive offensive performances have placed Harden among the best to ever do it at putting the ball in the basket. But Harden has not managed to find the success he has wanted in Houston, despite being surrounded by other All-Star and Hall of Fame talent. Houston have done everything that was possible to surround Harden with the talent to win, but The Beard simply cannot find a way to make things work with them. Here are the reasons why James Harden cannot win with other All-Star players around him.
1. James Harden's Love For Dribbling
As the great Charles Barkley mentions anytime he gets, nobody wants to play with a guy who "Dribbles, Dribbles, Dribbles, Dribbles". James Harden simply loves to dribble the basketball, something that teammates hate to be a part of no matter what they say. Basketball is a team game at the core of it, but James Harden can literally dribble the ball 24 seconds during every possession if he could. His love for handling the ball means his teammates get cold in the flow of an offense and tend to zone out when Harden has the rock.
For fellow star players, this is a massive no-go. Dwight Howard was still an All-Star when he joined the Houston Rockets, and the duo with James Harden was expected to do big things. Howard ended up complaining about his lack of touches and eventually opted to not re-sign with Houston during free agency. As of last season, former MVP Russell Westbrook was supposed to be the ultimate partner for James Harden because they are best friends and tremendous offensive players in their own rights.
However, Westbrook also got fed up with Harden's dribbling which forced Westbrook into shying away from his abilities as a playmaker himself. Both Howard and Westbrook could not see a future in Houston and Harden's dribbling was the reason for the failed experiments.
2. The Beard's Lack Of Responsibility
The perfect example of Harden's lack of responsibility and inability to get along with co-stars is evidenced by Chris Paul and even Carmelo Anthony's stint with Houston. Chris Paul is one of the greatest leaders in NBA history and also one of the most unselfish. Paul didn't mind stepping aside and letting Harden dribble as much as he wanted, as long as The Beard took control as the leader of the team. Needless to say, Harden has not come through for Houston as many have hoped.
Harden has had multiple poor postseason showings that have hurt his team and this is not the example of a great leader. With the Rockets getting eliminated by the Golden State Warriors again in 2018, Harden ended up not backing Chris Paul before Houston traded the point guard away for not fitting well next to him. Even Carmelo Anthony did not receive the support from James Harden, whose style of play forced Anthony into a catch and shoot role that did not bring out the best of his talents. James Harden cannot seemingly go get his teammates on the same page and his lack of leadership is a big factor in that.
To further accentuate this, James Harden's complete lack of regard for the Houston Rockets training camp this off-season has caused a distraction in his team's locker room out of pure negligence and pride as a leader. James Harden might want out of Houston, but partying in clubs without social distancing or COVID-related mandatory masks doesn't look good for Harden supporters.
3. Iso-Ball Does Not Win Championships
As the late and great Kobe Bryant said, Harden's style of play is not conducive to championship basketball. Kobe Bryant was one of the most selfish offensive players ever, but he knew it took a team to win rings. Instead of dominating the ball every possession of every game, Kobe learned how to allow his teammates to get in the groove of games and when to turn it on. While it is unfair to compare James Harden to Kobe Bryant, Harden's offensive skills should be carried out in the same way.
Harden might be the best offensive player on the floor, but one man can't beat 15 teams en route to an NBA title. James Harden has never quite learned how to play off the ball and doesn't prosper unless he makes every decision on offense on the court. Even Michael Jordan, the greatest scorer and winner ever, knew how to play team ball and give his teammates confidence.
James Harden is a special talent and he deserves all the praise he gets for his offensive exploits, but superstar teammates will never want to play with him in Houston with his iso-style of play. Chris Paul knew it wouldn't work before he was traded, and neither did Dwight Howard. Russell Westbrook felt so stifled by Harden's iso ball that he wanted out after one season. With James Harden's trade request pending, perhaps it might be best for The Beard to join another superstar's team and get a taste of his own medicine because he has yet to make an NBA Finals as the man on an NBA franchise.