Why James Harden is Not Like Carmelo Anthony

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets guard James Harden is one of the rising superstars in the NBA. He is currently the leader of a Rockets team that is sitting in third place in the Western Conference with a record of 36-17 going into All-Star break. Houston has won seven straight games.

David Thorpe of ESPN’s TrueHoop TV recently compared Harden’s style of play to that of the New York KnicksCarmelo Anthony and said he might be the “new Carmelo”. He claimed that while Harden is a great scorer, he takes a lot of time off the clock when he has the ball by using jab steps and pump-fakes and then eventually just puts up a shot. Thorpe does say Harden has more skill than just scoring ability, but much of the Rockets’ scoring comes off individual play as opposed to team play. This is much like what has happened with Anthony and the Knicks.

Harden has become a scoring machine since joining the Rockets last season. He has also shouldered much of the offensive load. He averaged 25.9 points per game last season. Even with the acquisition of Dwight Howard for this season, Harden is still averaging 23.9 points per game.

Throughout Anthony’s career, he has always been among the league leaders in points per game with a career average of 25.2. When comparing each other’s field goal percentage, the numbers slightly favor Anthony, who holds an edge of 45.5 percent to 44.2 percent over their careers.

That is really where the similarities stop. Even Thorpe points out that Harden has many more skills to fall back on than Anthony does. During his first three seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden was a terrific sixth man off the bench. He was an excellent playmaker with very good passing and scoring ability, and was also an outstanding perimeter defender.

Since landing in Houston, Harden has had to take on a much greater role. Houston’s offense can get very stagnant and individualized. Harden certainly plays a part in that, but he knows he is the team’s best player and has probably felt that the Rockets need him to score to be at their best.

He still does other things like create for his teammates, as evidenced by his 5.3 assists per game. Anthony has never averaged more than 3.8. Harden is also relentless in attacking the basket, as he is attempting 8.8 free throws per game this season. Anthony does also get to the line often with 7.7 attempts per game over his career.

As part of Harden being the featured offensive player, coach Kevin McHale probably wants to preserve him defensively and save his energy for the offensive side. It was not too long ago when he was with the Thunder and was one of the team’s primary defenders against LeBron James in the NBA Finals. Anthony has never really been a team’s top defender. He has also never been great at creating for his teammates. He’s a great scorer who also is very good at rebounding.

Each of these guys is a fantastic player in his own right. They have similar styles as to how efficiently they score. The thing that separates them is that Harden is simply a more diverse player.

Martin Mihaly is a Houston Rockets writer for RantSports.com.  Follow him on Twitter @MartinMihaly, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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  • Jah

    Good article. I’ll even add that Harden’s team is winning. If he was ball-hogging as bad as Melo, there’s no way the Rockets will be winners of 7 games straight right now, and certainly not 3rd place in a toughened Western Conference.

    Melo’s team is even losing in a WEAK Eastern Conference. The comparison is just absurd and without warrant.

    Remove Harden and let Haters like Parsons and Lin carry the team with their team-orient style, the Rockets wouldn’t fare as good against top-competitive teams.

    The problem is, Parsons and Lin aren’t that good and only have borderline skillsets. Not enough to coast on teams playing a team-orient style of attack.

    Harden, believe it or not, make Parsons shine because Harden is the focus of the opposing teams defense. Against lesser teams, you can do the “team” concept, and in Parsons’ words, “more fun that way”

    However, it isn’t fun when Parsons and Lin can’t deliver “consistently” as a team against the top-echelon teams. And the need for a player to be able to create his own offense becomes glaring and quite apparently.

    Parsons and Lin don’t really know what it means to play an entire season without a Star player, and thinks a McHale-led “team concept” will trounce out the competition in the West. Delusional fools.

    Harden plays in the flow of the offense. He gets others in involved too. Remember, this is dude’s 4th year in the NBA. Second year as a Superstar of his team. And he’s made greater strides than Parsons, Lin and Asik combined!

    He need time to adjust his game to be a better player, team-wise but he’s well on track, here. He’s not hurting team chemistry or lacking besides his defense tendencies. And there a good reason why his defense isn’t as sharp as it was during his OKC tenure. He has a bigger role with the Rockets, and the experience is still fairly new to him.

    For his teammate, Parsons, to be hating on Harden so early in his progress to Greatness, is an inexcusable conduct and attitude of a butt-hurt, jealous Loser. I’d like to see this Clown on another team as the sole Star player for his team and see if he can do just 1/3 of what’s expected of Harden every game.

    Parsons should stfu and keep his focus as ROLE PLAYER and spot-up shooter.

    • maran747

      He’s like Melo because he is a ball stopper. Because of that, the Rockets and Harden will be like Melo and the teams he’s played for. You say he’s not a ball hog, when I watch him, he shoots 80% every time he touches the ball.