Is James Harden a No. 1 Player on a Championship Team?

By Reece Helms
James Harden of the Houston Rockets
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The new duo of James Harden and Dwight Howard is a force to be reckoned with. Howard controlling the paint and Harden handling the ball, which will lead to a lot of pick and rolls. Sounds like a great combination, but is Harden a No. 1 player on a championship team?

Last season Harden averaged 25 points a game, 5.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds a game. These are great regular season numbers, especially since the 25 points a game was enough to be the fifth best in the NBA, behind the likes of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, some pretty stellar company.

With that being said, Harden has shown he can score at a high level, but can he lead the Houston Rockets to an NBA Championship? Is he a No. 1 player on a championship team? This has yet to be seen, which is why this article was written in the first place.

Not to be disrespectful to Howard (Stephen A.Smith voice) he will have a major role in the Rockets success or failure, but I think Harden needs to be the leader. The guard has to be the leader if they are near equal talent with a center. Why? Because he has the ball in his hands twice as much as him. Harden will be taking most of the last-second, game-winning shots, not Howard.

Kobe doesn’t win without Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan doesn’t win without Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson doesn’t win without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and LeBron doesn’t win without his headband. OK, the last one was a joke.

Howard has to be Harden’s sidekick. He has to be his Kareem, his Shaq or whoever you want to put in here. Now calm down, put away your pitchforks, I’m not comparing Howard to the great Kareem, or even Shaq; he just has to be as close as he possibly can.

Harden isn’t on Bryant’s level yet either. Last year was Harden’s first year as the face of an NBA franchise, in OKC he was behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Harden didn’t even start for the Thunder. Harden is emerging as one of the best, if not the best, shooting guard in the NBA. The time to prove it is now, by leading the Rockets deep into the NBA Playoffs.

I think the Rockets will have to add a third max player like Howard requested as he wanted the Rockets to sign his friend Josh Smith, who recently signed with the Detroit Pistons.

When you think of a championship-caliber team, led by a superstar, does Harden come to mind? For me he does, but he’s in a very long line. LeBron, Kobe, Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade come to my mind before Harden does, though. Laugh all you want at Anthony being a championship player all you want. Yes, he hasn’t had the playoff success, but he’s still a superstar, one of the best scorers in the NBA.

Is Harden a No. 1 option on a championship caliber team right now? No, I don’t think so right now. Can he be in a few years? Absolutely. Give him and Howard a year or two to gel, and possibly add in another max contract player, and watch out.

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