Confidence and clutch. Those are two very powerful words in the game of basketball. Of course, every NBA player has to be confident in himself. However, the power comes with the players who have the most self-confidence. Pair the word confidence with clutch. What does that give you?
That gives you Michael Jordan. That gives you Kobe Bryant. That gives you Allen Iverson. Most recently, that gives you Kevin Durant. Putting James Harden with those names may be taking it too far. Don’t count him out, though. “The Beard” has taken incredible steps the last few years and has become a damn good player.
Being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets put James Harden in a more than ideal situation. Oklahoma City is likely pounding its head on the wall for trading him at the beginning of last year. However, this gave Harden an opportunity he would have never received along Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
As a Rocket, Harden has averaged about 25 points, 5.5 assists, and 5 rebounds. “The Beard” has become a bump and grind-type of player. He draws contact more often than any other player in the league and he excels at turning that into two points. Some players shy away from contact because they fear injury. However, James Harden welcomes contact due to his muscular 220-pound frame.
Sometimes fans will players into being big-time superstars. James Harden made his own legacy as he started out as a third-wheel in Oklahoma City. Harden wasn’t fortunate enough to start his career with anywhere near the publicity of a Kyrie Irving or a Carmelo Anthony. Since being traded to Houston, Harden has shown the stability of hanging with just about any other superstar.
Now, let’s move on to the clutch aspect of Harden’s game. Do we all remember how long it took for LeBron James to be considered “clutch?” He was always accused of shying away from the big moments. James may not have deserved all the criticism he got. However, it’s true that it took him a while to consistently be a clutch fourth quarter player.
That’s not the case for James Harden, though. Even as OKC’s third option, Harden would hit clutch shots in the 2012 playoffs. Defenses would be worried about Durant and Westbrook and that resulted in Harden unexpectedly burning them.
James Harden has been the man in H-Town. It’s funny. Sometimes it appears as if Kevin McHale doesn’t even attempt to draw up a special play for the last shot. Often it’s just Harden dribbling down the clock and either drawing a foul or using his wicked stepback move to free himself up for a jumper.
Even on the nights he is shooting 2-for-14 or 5-for-23, Harden will make huge baskets late in the fourth quarter. Being clutch isn’t always about hitting the last shot to win the game. It’s making the right plays to lead your team to victory.
If the Houston Rockets aren’t a championship contender now, give them until next year. I firmly believe Houston has a chance to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the next few years. That’s just as long as James Harden serves as the team’s anchor.