James Harden has been on a tear lately, playing even better than the last year, when he won the MVP Award after leading the Houston Rockets all the way to the Western Conference Finals and the best record in the NBA.
He’s been drawing comparisons with the greatest scorers in the history of the game, and he’s already making a strong case to enter the Hall of Fame once he decides to retire from this beautiful sport.
But, as he enters his prime, I got the idea to compare him with Dwyane Wade, because he is probably in the top 5 best shooting guards in NBA History.
Harden is the league’s best shooting guard right now, and some may argue Wade was the best shooting guard of his generation (especially when he won the NBA Championship), even though he played against Kobe Bryant. Today, we’re going to compare James Harden with Wade’s prime, to try and determine who the better player is.
Inside Scoring: Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade has never been much of a good three-point shooter, as he’s shot just 28% from his career while taking just 1.7 threes per game. Still, he averages over 22 points per game throughout his career, doing most of his damage from within close range. Harden is a versatile scorer that can be effective from all three levels, but Wade is superior in that regard.
Outside Scoring: James Harden
Obviously, James Harden gets the nod as a much better outside scorer, as even though he’s a career 36% shooter from beyond the arc, he’s a volume shooter from beyond the arc and a prolific scorer when it comes to pulling up for contested three-pointers. Over the last 3 seasons, he’s taken 9.3, 10.0 and 12.4 three-pointers per game.
Playmaking: James Harden
Dwyane Wade entered the league to run the point for the Miami Heat until he eventually switched to the shooting guard spot, but even though he’s averaged 5.5 assists per game throughout his career, Harden has grown to be one of the league’s best playmakers. He led the league the lone season he was used as a point guard and averages 6.2 dimes a contest per his career.
Athleticism: Dwyane Wade
James Harden uses his athleticism to create space between defenders, draw contact and finish below the rim, but that’s nothing compared to the way Wade used to do it back in the day. As a matter of fact, Harden copied a lot of moves from Wade’s book. Moreover, Wade was one of the most explosive dunkers in the game back in the day, and while he’s still showing off his athleticism at age 36, that’s just a glimpse of what he was able to when he was driving through the lane.
Defense: Dwyane Wade
James Harden has always drawn a lot of heat from his - lack of - defense. He’s just unwilling to put his body on the line, help in double teams or try and stay in front of offensive players. Wade, on the other hand, played lockdown defense against some of the best backcourt scorers of the past decade. Throughout his career, The Flash made it to 3 All-Defense teams.
Rim Protection: Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade is a great shot blocker, even at the shooting guard spot. As a matter of fact, he’s the only player to score 20.000+ points, 5.000+ assists, 4.000+ rebounds, 1.500+ steals, 800+ blocks and 500+ three-pointers beside LeBron James and Michael Jordan. He averages 0.9 blocks per game compared to Harden’s 0.6, and his career-high is 5 swats in a game compared to Harden’s 4.
James Harden is slightly taller than Wade (6’5’’ compared to 6’4’’) and he’s also a slightly better rebounder than the Flash. While Harden has averaged 5.1 boards per game, Wade’s career average is just 4.7. Still, they’re quite similar in that regard, which is good for league average for a shooting guard.
Clutch: Dwyane Wade
Even though it seems like he’s getting better during crunch time, James Harden has always choked when it has mattered the most. Wade, on the other hand, has made a living out of scoring huge shot after huge shot in clutch time. He led the Heat to a comeback against the Mavs in the first of his Championships and was a major factor for them again in the LeBron James era.
Leadership: Dwyane Wade
James Harden has been a great leader in the regular season, but he always comes short in the playoffs and just tends to disappear. Wade, on the other hand, is and has been the Miami Heat’s ultimate leader, even when LeBron James was also on board. Some players still just don’t respect Harden, but Wade has been considered a living legend for years now.
Basketball IQ: Dwyane Wade
Wade is one of the smartest players to ever lace them up. He knows how to get in position and make the most of his cuts, he rarely makes mistakes with the rock on his hands, makes his teammates better and knows how to fool defenders into drawing contact. Harden is also great when it comes to drawing fouls, but is careless with the ball on his hands and averages 3.6 turnovers per game.
Better Scorer: James Harden
Even though Dwyane Wade is a great scorer, James Harden is already one of the best scorers in the history of the game and he’s just getting started. They’ve both won 1 scoring titles, but Harden is on his way to win yet another this season. He can prolifically score from all three levels, and even though he gets a lot of hate for how constantly he’s getting to the line, he (mostly) deserves those trips. Also, his career average is 23.5 points per game compared to Wade’s 22.2.
Impact: James Harden
This one was pretty close, but we’re slightly leading towards handing Harden the nod this time because of how important he is for the Rockets, as they just can’t seem to win without him. Harden draws fouls, averages more assists per game, is a walking triple-double threat and defenders are constantly focused on him, leaving the lane wide open for Capela’s dunks.
1 on 1 Game: James Harden
Being a better scorer, James Harden is the best 1-on-1 player of the two. Wade is a much better defender and knows how to fool defenders into piling up fouls, but Harden has it all. He can drive, pull up, draw contact, hurt you with the Eurostep and finish with both hands. He’s read every page in the Wade book and made it better, at least offensive-wise.