Projecting James Harden’s Superstar Potential
In late October Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey traded, then signed James Harden to a maximum contract. Given the 5 year $80 million deal, Morey thinks the bearded wonder has the capability to be a superstar. But will he be?
Tough call, but let’s try to project.
On Oklahoma City, Harden was the steadying force to Russell Westbrook’s sometimes-erratic play. Coming off the bench, he provided not only a scoring punch at 16 PPG, but a well-rounded offensive game, including four assists and four rebounds per. He has the handles to play point guard, the intelligence to use his 220 pound frame to get shots off in the lane, the ability to find open teammates off dribble penetration and the skill to knock down shots from any spot on the floor. And the shots aren’t just of the spot-up variety. The dribble-pull-up game is lethal anywhere from 18 feet in.
Less heralded is Harden’s outstanding defense. Harden has the desire, speed and hands to match up with any point guard and shooting guard.
These are all indicators of superstar potential, but Harden also exudes something extra that only the league’s elite have – a massive amount of confidence. The man has that stony demeanor, and doesn’t seem phased by the fate of the Rockets being thrust on him with that contract.
On the downside – Harden’s Euro-step is going to stop working at some point, as defenses have somewhat adjusted to this tricky but predictable move. He doesn’t have much of a back-to-the-basket post game either, so he’ll have to develop some other facet to his repertoire to get baskets around the rim.
The requisite superstar intangibles of confidence and focus are there. The requisite superstar tangibles of scoring and distributing need some development. I project he’ll reach superstar status, not only due to his mental makeup, but also due to the opportunity he has in Houston to falter and not get roasted by the fans and media, and the strong coaching in Kevin McHale and management in Daryl Morey.
There are no external forces that can prematurely derail Harden’s shot at being one the NBA’s elite players. One day, he’ll get there.
-Andrew Damelin, Contributor
Follow us on Twitter