5 active locks for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images
Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images /
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Basketball Hall of Fame
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James Harden

  • Career stats: 25.1 PPG, 6.3 APG, 5.3 RPG, 1.6 SPG, .435/.352/.858 shooting splits
  • Advanced stats: 133.3 win shares, 6.9 box plus-minus, 61.0 percent true shooting
  • Accolades: 2017-18 MVP, 6-time All-NBA selection, 2-time scoring champion, 2016-17 assist champion, 2011-12 Sixth Man of the Year

Another connection to Durant, James Harden, was the swing piece in the ultimate “what-if?” of the 2010s (those young Thunder). His exodus to the Houston Rockets probably changed his career, but the mystery remains of how many rings he and Durant could’ve won with each other. And like Durant, Harden synthesizes volume and efficiency in historic ways, ranking 11th all-time in points per game and eighth among non-bigs in true shooting percentage.

Harden has consistently tested the legal limits of the game, drawing fouls in ugly but effective ways to get free points. It’s earned him a career free throw rate of .529, which ranks fourth all-time among players with a 3-point attempt rate above .100 (to eliminate post players) and at least 500 games played (to eliminate small samples).

He also radicalized his shot profile once joining the Rockets, avoiding the mid-range in religious fashion. For his career, 72.9 percent of Harden’s shots have come in either the restricted area or behind the 3-point line, with triples making up 45.8 percent of his entire portfolio.

And for all the reproach given to Harden for his defense, he’s actually not too bad at it. Never has he finished a season with a defensive BPM under 0.0 (fifth starter/sixth man level), and several times he’s finished a season above 1.0, including the last three seasons consecutively. Even as teams try to hunt him for a mismatch, Harden has stood his ground and refused to be a liability.

Harden’s innate foul-drawing, pinpoint playmaking and jitterbug elusiveness make him one of the toughest players to guard. Why he flames out in the playoffs is one of the league’s great mysteries, but won’t hold him back from enshrinement in Springfield.