Without a doubt, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are two of the most dominant superstar players in the NBA. They are also consistent MVP favorites and in fact, have been two of the greatest stat sheet stuffers in NBA history. As a result, it is only natural to wonder who is the better player at impacting an NBA game.
Westbrook's athletic ability as a point guard is very rare, and that allows him to grab every rebound on the court and then be the primary playmaker on offense. On the flip side, James Harden is the most unstoppable scorer in the league right now and can single-handedly win games by himself thanks to his offense. It is time to decide which player is more dominant in the game and if they can indeed be separated from one another.
Scoring - James Harden
Harden is a beast at attacking the rim and finishing inside. In fact, attaching the run is one of his most potent methods 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 in recent years, he has settled for his stepback three which is his go-to move nowadays.
Westbrook is slightly better inside, mainly due to his explosiveness and athleticism. Westbrook is simply unguardable down low against most other point guards, and can seemingly rise and shoot over defenders with ease near the paint. Especially when Westbrook attacks the rim himself, he simply cannot be stopped without fouling him. Westbrook is also 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 game to the next level in the playoffs and possibly win a championship
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.
Athleticism - Russell Westbrook
Harden is a very strong guard and also explosive with a quick first step, but Westbrook is a freakish athlete at the point guard position. There is no debate here as we haven't seen a player who can move around the court with the kind of explosiveness that Westbrook has. He can get from one end of the court to another with a few dribbles, as he is lightning quick and can leap out the gym when he's at the rim. Westbrook is also much stronger than most point guards at his position so he has an advantage every single night.
Harden is a powerful player who is quick to attack the basket, but he can't leap like Westbrook and quite frankly, very few players in NBA history can. Westbrook takes this one as the most athletic point guard in NBA history.
Defense - Russell Westbrook
As great as James Harden is on offense, he is not a valuable defensive player. He has improved most recently, but he gives up on plays on too many occasions which isn't good for getting team results in the postseason. To his defense, Harden is an excellent post defender and his lack of lateral movement on defense isn't exposed in that regard.
On the other hand, Westbrook can be a scary defender. He can be the most dominant defensive player in the league if he wants to, as he has the size and movement to stop opposing players. The problem here is that Westbrook gambles too much on defense when going after steals, which leaves him exposed. Overall, both players are inconsistent on defense although Westbrook gets a slight edge due to his athletic ability and defensive potential.
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, Westbrook cannot be consistent from the perimeter and this hurts his ability to take and make clutch shots. Not to mention, Westbrook has had too many occasions where he commits crucial turnovers and rushes into bad decisions instead of slowing down and letting the game come to him. Harden is never in a rush, always cool, and that makes him a better clutch performer.
Leadership - James Harden
Both Harden and Westbrook are primary ball-handlers who prosper most when making plays for themselves and their teammates. Harden is slowly becoming a more effective leader and seems to be better at holding other players accountable when they do something wrong. Harden's impact on the court is surreal and he immediately has an imposing presence in the locker room because of it.
Russell Westbrook is a very strong-minded individual who plays harder than almost every other player in the league. While his effort and work ethic is a fantastic example of a leader, his mindset sometimes isn't. Westbrook can sometimes trick himself that he's the most efficient player in the NBA which simply isn't the case, and his recklessness sometimes frustrates fans and his teammates. There might be a reason Kevin Durant opted to play with Stephen Curry in Golden State over Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, and Westbrook's questionable leadership could be a reason why.
Basketball IQ - 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. As a result, he is the best offensive player in the game today and probably the most efficient scorer right now.
The fact that Harden can get 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. Harden's ability to draw fouls and get easy points at the stripe is a special skill, and he has a very consistent outside jumper. Westbrook is a great talent and all-around athlete, but his basketball I.Q. is sometimes questioned when he takes bad shots or commits unnecessary turnovers. James Harden is one of the smartest offensive scorers in NBA history and takes this one as well.
Impact - James Harden
Both players are the main ball handlers and scorers and are almost equal in finding open guys for shots since they are incredible scorers. Their offense is a reason that both players are impactful, but James Harden takes this one because he has been an incredible playmaker and scorer since joining the Rockets. 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 or scores every time. What makes Harden particularly scary is that he can make any pass at any time, and he is truly one of the best playmakers in the game.
Westbrook is also a great playmaker and can take over the game with his passing and scoring like James Harden. The difference here is that Harden plays more in control, meaning he can set guys up for better looks than Westbrook who can sometimes be a bit reckless with his decision-making. Harden's ability to read the floor and make plays for himself and his teammates is a rare skill that very few possess, and he edges Westbrook here.
1 on 1 Game - James Harden
Both guards are unstoppable in one-on-one situations due to their explosiveness, skill, and desire to score the ball. Westbrook can score anytime he wants at the rim and has a very good mid-range shot. Most times, Westbrook can back down his defender and rise to shoot over them with ease. As great as Westbrook is, he simply isn’t on the level of The Beard. James Harden is simply the best one-on-one player in the NBA, regardless of his defensive inefficiencies. His ability to win games on his own with his offense means he will take over any game unless he is double or triple-teamed. Harden is a bucket every time in one-on-one situations and he has been doing it for 3 years at a Hall of Fame level.
Westbrook is very deadly in one-on-one situations but he is not on Harden’s level as a scorer and playmaker. Westbrook is more careless than Harden and does not have The Beard’s jumper, giving Harden a massive edge in this category. No player comes close to Harden in one-on-one situations right now and that includes Russell Westbrook.
The careers of James Harden and Russell Westbrook have already been legendary. They were drafted by the same team and later became MVPs and two of the best players in the entire league. Both players are triple-double threats and have made putting up big numbers look normal. But looking at both of their careers so far, both James Harden and Russell Westbrook have had similar Hall of Fame careers. Both players have an MVP Award, although there are slight differences in other accolades. Westbrook is a 9-time All-Star, 9-time All-NBA performer (2 First Team), and 2-time scoring champion. Westbrook led the league in assists twice and has played in 10 total Playoffs over his 12 NBA seasons. James Harden is an 8-time All-Star, 7-time All-NBA performer (6 First Team), and 3-time scoring champion. Harden led the NBA in assists once in his career and has played in a total of 11 Playoffs over his 11 NBA seasons.
Overall, this one is too hard to gauge. Westbrook played one more season and has the benefit of more accolades in that regard, although Harden has more All-NBA First Team Selections. Their stat-lines are also incredible and too close to call. Harden averages 25.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 6.3 APG while Westbrook averaged 23.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 8.3 APG. Both players do not have an NBA title, although they played in the NBA Finals together. The only thing that could distinguish their overall careers would be an NBA championship, as that could settle the comparison once and for all. For now, there is no clear winner in this category.
James Harden vs. Russell Westbrook 6-2
Both James Harden and Russell Westbrook are Hall of Fame players, All-Stars, and dominant offensive players. Their ability to fill up the stat sheets, score the ball, and assist teammates places them in special company all-time. The edge ultimately goes to James Harden because he is one of the best one-on-one players of all-time and impacts the game more than any other player not named LeBron James right now. As a more efficient shooter and overall player, he is a better player than Russell Westbrook.