“Put Better Players Around Him”: Former NBA Champion Disregards Need for James Harden to Change

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The Houston Rockets are going through a paradigm shift. General Manager Daryl Morey has resigned from his position and the same holds true for coach Mike D’Antoni. The franchise will be looking for a shooter and a center player in the coming off-season. James Harden has already endured many changes in his eight years with the team. Still, a lot is in the pipeline for the Rockets.

All these changes are a result of losing back-to-back two conference semis even after having decent regular-seasons. The organization placed all their bets when they brought Russell Westbrook from OKC to help James Harden with his job. But a “not at his 100 percent” Russ failed to perform in the post-season and they got knocked out.

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni and guard Russell Westbrook
Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and guard Russell Westbrook look on during the first half of game two of the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Does James Harden need to change his playing style to bring the Rockets up?

James Harden, even after putting on a good performance, faced heat after the series loss. Critics began to say that The Beard must change his ways to surprise opponents. However, former NBA Champion Paul Pierce hasn’t bought into this line of thinking.

Pierce said, “It’s really hard for me to watch James Harden’s game and say that something’s gotta change. You got a guy who has been in the MVP race the last six, seven years, a Top 5 player. How do you ask him to change? You have to put better players around him. James is a guy who needs the ball, he’s had a historical season. They’ve won a lot of games, they’ve been in deep in the playoff runs, and so how do you ask him to change his style?… At this age, I’m not sure anything’s going to change for Harden.”

Pierce went on to add weight to his thoughts and claimed, “He’s the best one-on-one player that we’ve seen in a very long time. How do you take the balls out of his hands and say, ‘James, I don’t want you bringing up an Iso, we want you to play at the Post a little more, we want you to come off down screens’, how do you ask a player of that caliber who is so great at what he does to change some things up?… This style got him paid over 250 million dollars.”

On what fronts is The Beard good, and where is he falling short?

The Beard is a Supermax player who is one of the most elite shooters in the league. His isolation plays are top-class, where he punishes defenders and puts them to shame with his skills. All this has given him an average of 30+ points for three straight seasons now and at an FG% that has never dipped below 44% in the past four seasons. 

On the downside, the opponents mostly double-team him and that leads to stagnancy in the play. He needs better players on the perimeter to help him move the ball with confidence. 

Still, the man has pushed the Rockets to the playoffs every single time after he joined the organization in 2012. To this day, he is their best option to win a title provided he gets a better support system.

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