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Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden Comparison: The Beard Is A Better Player Than Brodie

Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden Comparison: The Beard Is A Better Player Than Brodie

Which future Hall of Famer is a better player right now? Both Russell Westbrook and James Harden were named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, and have careers that are considered extraordinary in every way. Westbrook is the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double in an NBA season and has accomplished this 4 times out of the last 5 seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Washington Wizards. Russ is also considered the most explosive player in NBA history and has won the coveted MVP Award in 2017.

Meanwhile, James Harden is a 3-time scoring champion with one of the most unstoppable one-on-one games in NBA history. The Beard also has an MVP Award and has 9 All-Star Team appearances at 32 years of age. For Harden, there is a lot more to accomplish including winning an NBA title, which he can do as a member of the juggernaut Brooklyn Nets squad.

Clearly, both Westbrook and Harden are elite-level guards in the NBA. But which one is considered a better player? Taking into account the key elements of a superstar’s game and analyzing them, here is the ultimate player comparison that will answer that question with stats and facts.

Scoring - James Harden

Westbrook is a great inside scorer, mainly due to his explosiveness and athleticism. The point guard 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. However, Westbrook is a liability from the perimeter (32.4%). This has been a glaring weakness in his game that has prevented the point guard from helping the Lakers this season.

Harden is also a beast at attacking the rim and finishing inside. In fact, attaching the rim is one of his most potent methods of scoring the ball in the modern NBA. He uses his incredible handles to beat his defender to the rim at any given time to finish, usually with an And-One. Unfortunately for Harden, he does not get the calls he normally does which has affected his scoring output (20.8 PPG) as it is the lowest average since his 3rd year in the league. In three-point shooting, James is shooting 33.7% from three which is below his career average of 36.3%.

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. Even with his struggles, Harden is averaging more PPG at greater efficiency.

Athleticism - Russell Westbrook

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 of the gym when he is ahead of steam. 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 - Even

Westbrook has the tools to be a scary defender 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. As he has aged, Russ is also not a consistent defender who would rather save his energy for the offensive side of the ball or go after rebounds instead of contesting shots.

As great as James Harden is on offense, he is not a valuable defensive player. He has improved his defense over the past few seasons, but he gives up on plays on too many occasions which isn't good for getting team results in the postseason. The Beard has been regarded as an above-average post defender for his size, but that is not enough to make him a reliable star in stopping opposing players.

Overall, neither player is a consistent defender and cannot be distinguished on the defensive side of the ball.

Clutch - Even

Russell Westbrook has nailed game-winners in the past, but he 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.

While many doubt Harden's ability to perform under pressure, especially in the playoffs, Harden has come up in the clutch in the past. 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 if he takes the initiative. The Beard is lucky to be playing with Kevin Durant, one of the most clutch players in NBA history.

Based on their pasts and all-around inefficiencies in the postseason, neither Westbrook nor Harden are considered clutch performers and cannot be distinguished between each other.

Leadership - Even

Both Harden and Westbrook are primary ball-handlers who prosper most when making plays for themselves and their teammates. 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 being a leader, his mindset sometimes isn't. Westbrook showcases recklessness which sometimes frustrates fans and his teammates, which is why the point guard is in trade talks at this moment. 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.

James Harden has become 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. However, James has not been in the best shape over the past two seasons and does not seem locked-in at playing MVP-level basketball. As a result, it would be wrong to give Harden the edge over Russ in terms of leadership at this moment.

Basketball I.Q. - James Harden

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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. The point guard is gifted at reading where the ball comes off the rim and is one of the first players to get to them when it comes to rebounding. Russ is also a great playmaker because his physical gifts give him an advantage when attacking the basket.

But the Beard has an advantage in this category. 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 attack the rim and get easy points at the rim is a special skill and he has a more consistent outside jumper than Westbrook. James Harden is one of the smartest offensive scorers in NBA history and takes this one as well.

Impact - James Harden

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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, and Westbrook is a great playmaker that can take over the game with his passing and scoring. The point guard is also a terrific rebounder who does not back down from bigger players, making his motor a big positive for his team.

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

Russell Westbrook vs. 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 the past 4 years at a Hall of Fame level.

Defensively, neither player is proficient at stopping opposing players that generally rely on their offense more so than anything else. Overall, Harden possesses a more well-rounded one-on-one game because he is simply a more controlled offensive player.

Career - Even

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 which Hall of Fame talent has the better career so far?

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 three times and has played in 11 total Playoffs over his 14 NBA seasons. In the postseason, Russ has career averages of 24.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 7.9 APG on 40.8% shooting from the field and 29.6% from three.

Meanwhile, James Harden is a 9-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 12 Playoffs over his 13 NBA seasons. In the postseason, The Beard is putting up 23.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 6.0 APG on 42.8% from the field and 33.2% from three.

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 although Westbrook has performed better in the playoffs. Most importantly, neither player has an NBA title and have to face never-ending questions on their impact in the biggest moments in the playoffs. As a result, their careers are too close to call.

Final Score

Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden 1-5

James Harden edges Russell Westbrook as the better superstar player. Westbrook is a terrific athlete who is still capable of putting up triple-doubles on a consistent basis, but he is not as skilled as James Harden is. The Beard is a better ball-handler, shooter, passer, and all-around player thanks to his basketball IQ. Harden is having his worst scoring season since the 2011-2012 season but is still able to help Kevin Durant lead the Brooklyn Nets to the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Replace Harden with Westbrook, and that would not be possible. Westbrook is a future Hall of Famer and an all-time great triple-double threat, but he does not dictate winning as The Beard does on the court. Other than explosiveness and unrivaled athleticism, Westbrook does not compare to Harden as an offensive player and the proof is in the way both of their teams have been playing so far. 


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