An evaluation of an NBA player’s legacy is one of the most volatile aspects of the league, as in some cases, all it takes is a single game or shot to define an entire career. Every NBA player is looking to prove themselves whenever they step foot on the hardwood. However, there comes the point for specific players, where proving themselves becomes a necessity.
From former number one overall picks to potential league MVPs, here are the five players with the most to prove headed into Orlando.
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has long been a fan of James Harden and spoke about the 2017-2018 MVP in some glowing terms recently.
Morey was a guest on the “Pomp Podcast” with Anthony Pompliano recently and discussed Harden. He defended the Rockets guard and had high praise for him.
“I don’t think the media is super fair of him,” Morey said of Harden. “I think part of it is he he has a tight circle of people that that he trusts. With those people who he knows have his best interests at heart and he’s had a history with them, he’s very gregarious, very open, very smart. Just this great guy. And with everyone else, he’s not the opposite. He’s just reserved. He’s not someone who is going to be a big media guy or things like that.
“So, I think that hurts him a little bit, but I can I can tell you privately he’s like a basketball genius. He’s a great quality human being. We’ve worked together for eight or nine years now, and I couldn’t have a better partner to try and win a title with. In fact, most days I wake up saying, ‘I’ve let him down,’ because I haven’t gotten him got him the right players to win a title.”
The Rockets have gotten close to a title but haven’t been able to win it all since going back-to-back from 1994-1995. They’ve twice made the conference finals with Harden and have won over 50 games five times with him. He’s become a bonafide superstar in Houston, leading the league in scoring three years in a row. Morey has previously even said that Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan.
The NBA playoffs are often full of remarkable performances, with one player taking over a game and dragging his team over the line. After all, we’ve seen it plenty of times over the year, from Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant to LeBron James and many more.
Who are those players now? Here are five who could, if they take over a game or series, be good enough to lead their team to the NBA Finals — and even win a championship when the season resumes in Orlando this summer.
Sports fans were able to satisfy their desperate hunger for competition while the NBA remains on hiatus by watching ESPN’s 10-part documentary, “The Last Dance.” Iconic NBA documentaries can function almost as a time machine, guiding the viewer through a notable part of the league’s history, while still providing a similar thrill to the one felt when experiencing games live.
“The Last Dance” was compelling at every turn. It seems fitting that ESPN created arguably the greatest NBA documentary of all time while telling the story of the greatest NBA player of all time. While there may never be a story that parallels Michael Jordan’s ascension to basketball supremacy, the last decade of NBA action has produced a magnitude of engrossing stories. These stories have a profound impact on the current framework of the NBA and may also be worthy of their own documentary one day.
Here are some subjects we would love to see covered in-depth in a future documentary.
An image of a considerably slimmed-down James Harden made the rounds on the Internet last week, and now one of his teammates is putting a figure on it.
In an Instagram Live broadcast this week, Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers commented on the bearded superstar’s recent weight loss.
“Y’all can call it what you want but ‘beefy’ Harden was averaging 36 [points per game] so I don’t even know what skinny Harden is gonna do,” said Rivers, per Space City Scoop. “He definitely lost a cool 20 pounds.”
Harden, who had been listed this season at 220 pounds, looked incredibly trim in the recent viral photo, and is said to be doing a number of intensive workouts during the current hiatus.
Though quick and athletic in his own regard, the former MVP is more known for his craftiness and ability to shift gears, so it will be interesting to see how the weight loss impacts his game. For the Rockets, who were sixth in the West when play was suspended, a more slender Harden can only be a positive.
Bradley Beal has been with the Washington Wizards for his entire eight-year career, but he was almost never even a part of the team to begin with.
In an appearance this week on SHOWTIME Basketball’s “All the Smoke,” Beal revealed that he was very nearly traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder on draft night in 2012 in exchange for James Harden.
“The whole night, I kinda had a feeling I was going 2 or 3,” said the All-Star guard. “We knew AD [Anthony Davis] was going 1. So I already knew I was going to Charlotte or Washington. When we’re sitting in the draft room, sure enough, my agent is tapping me like, ‘It’s possible you might go to OKC.’ ‘Damn, how am I gonna go there? I didn’t even work out for OKC. I only worked out for three teams: Washington, Cleveland, and Charlotte.’
“So the deal was to trade James to Washington, OKC trades up to 2 or 3, get me, trade James to Washington,” Beal went on. “I’d have been in OKC with KD [Kevin Durant] and Russ[ell Westbrook]. It was almost done.”
By now we know that the Thunder were actively shopping Harden at the time and wound up trading him to the Houston Rockets in October that year in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and multiple draft picks. There he blossomed into one of the NBA’s best players and won league MVP in 2018.
The landscape of the league would have looked very different though had the Harden-Beal swap have gone through. Would the Thunder have had enough to make it back to the NBA Finals like they did in 2012? Would Durant still have left to sign with the Golden State Warriors in 2016? Would the dynamic duo of Harden and John Wall have gone anywhere in the Eastern Conference (where the Beal-Wall Wizards made three conference semifinal appearances in the middle of the decade)?
We don’t know the answer to any of those questions, but what we do know is that a Beal trade could still be consummated at some point elsewhere.
As the NBA keeps making progress towards a return to play, James Harden is one player who is doing his best to stay ready.
Images of the Houston Rockets star appearing noticeably slimmer went viral this weekend. Many Twitter users noted how much thinner Harden looked.
A feature by Kelly Iko of The Athletic revealed this week that Harden, the former Arizona State star, has been working out in Arizona with ex-Sun Devils teammate Christian Polk amid the shutdown. As part of his workouts, Harden is doing mountain drills, yoga, pool work, and sand exercises. He is also said to be studying plyometrics to further enhance his quickness and first step.
The former MVP Harden is officially listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. He issued a challenge to opposing teams just before play was suspended, and now seems poised to deliver on it if and when the season can resume for Houston.
Little is known about when the NBA will make its highly-anticipated return. With close to three-fourths of the regular season in the books, the leaders for end-of-season awards have distinguished themselves from the pack. All-NBA selections are meant to represent the best players at their respective positions. Quantifying what it means to be the best at one’s position is as divisive of a debate as the Michael Jordan/LeBron James G.O.A.T. argument. Selection as an All-NBA player is about not only putting up impressive statistics, but also embodying winning with play on the court.
Without further ado, here are my selections for the All-NBA guards based on this shortened season’s body of work.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been tasked with defending some of the most explosive players in the NBA, and you may be surprised to learn which opponent he considers the most challenging to cover.
Antetokounmpo and his girlfriend Mariah Riddlesprigger held a Q&A on Instagram live this week, and one fan asked who is the hardest player to guard in the NBA. Giannis thought for a while before giving the honor to Harden.
There’s no denying Harden is one of the best scorers in the NBA, but we’ll probably never know whether or not Giannis was being sarcastic. The two players have had somewhat of an ongoing feud over the past year, so Antetokounmpo may have just been messing with his nemesis.
When Antetokounmpo was picking his All-Star Game roster on live TV, he had a funny moment while deciding between Harden, Kemba Walker and Trae Young. The Greek Freak said he didn’t want to pick Harden because he’d rather have a teammate who is going to pass. Harden was later asked about the remark during an interview and responded by taking a shot at Giannis. Giannis also threw an elbow at Harden during the All-Star Game that may or may not have been inadvertent.
Harden is averaging 34.4 points per game this season, so Giannis probably isn’t the only player who would say Harden is the toughest person in the NBA to guard. It is somewhat surprising, however, that The Greek Freak is giving the Houston Rockets star the satisfaction.
James Harden has long had a reputation for being a weak player on defense, but that narrative is outdated.
Harden has been among the tougher defenders in the league in post-up situations the past few seasons, including this year. And he’s heard all the jokes about teams trying to target him on defense. He dares them to do so.
“Come try it, and the s— won’t work,” Harden told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
MacMahon wrote a long article about the Rockets’ defense and how Houston is able to play well on that side of the court despite having a small-ball lineup. The keys come down to their ability to constantly switch on screens, and the one overlooked part of their small-ball lineup: whatever they lack in height they make up for in strength and sturdiness.
Harden is muscular and has an extremely strong lower body, which makes it tough for him to get pushed around.
Taking shots at Harden over his defense remains in style, at least when it comes to Giannis Antetokounmpo. But the days of mocking him for his defense and making embarrassing compilation videos may be over.