Faceoff: Is James Harden the best scorer in NBA history, Part 2?

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When Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morrey created a stir by saying that James Harden in a better scorer than Michael Jordan, a lot found this ridiculous, hence this comparison.

For this piece, a scorer is referred to somebody who can get buckets when a team gives him the green light to go get one because they needed points while shooting efficiently. Not who scores most, not who averaged most.

We did a little refresher to check out some data about the other great scorers who knew how to get buckets in many ways in the first part.

See story: Faceoff: Is James Harden the best scorer in NBA history? (Part 1)

Here’s the other kind of scorer in this part, the one who has a few ways in scoring buckets but are so unstoppable when executing them:

The unstoppable scorers despite their limited means

Wilt Chamberlain
Key stats: 30.1 PPG, 54.0% from the field.

Shaquille O’neal
Key stats: 23.7 PPG, 52.8% from the field, 113 offensive rating.

The most physically imposing forces ever seen in the paint during their respective NBA eras. Both Wilt and Shaq dominated the league due to owning the paint. It would take  double teams or even triple teams just to slow them down or let them cough up the ball.

These two guys are the epitome of the post-up isolation. If the team needs points, it would just let the point guard dump the ball to them in the post and let them barrel in the paint for the basket.

The knack both is their is his inability to get points in the crucial minutes because no coach would allow the “Hack-a-Shaq” during the clutch due to their poor free-throw shooting (Shaq:52.7%; Wilt 51.1%).

Wilt was one of a kind in his era. Let’s just say he is unique with respect to his size and length. Wilt’s averaging 50 points in a season and scoring 100 in a game during an era that doesn’t have an “illegal defense” rule simply shows how he is effective as a scorer in the paint.

The knack on Wilt’s career has never been on the ability to get baskets, or rebounds for that matter. It is his lack of tiles due his inability to solve a defensive monster in Bill Russell.

“The Diesel” is the Chamberlain of his era. He is far inferior in statistical numbers than Wilt but had far better results in terms championship rings earned.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Key stats: 24.6 PPG, 55.9% from the field, 115 offensive rating.

The owner of the most unstoppable shot in NBA history. The coupling of his “sky hook” with his length creates a deadly scoring weapon that nobody could stop. The defense knows what move he is going to execute but they couldn’t do anything about it.

This combination is what made Jabbar the man with most points in NBA history.

Karl Malone
Key stats: 25.0 PPG, 51.9% from the field, 27.4% from three, 74.2% from the foul line, 113 offensive rating.

Malone had two main abilities to register points: a deadly combination of size and speed; and a perimeter jumper that is consistently sinking through the basket. And he got the right partners to enable him to exploit these scoring abilities.

He is not Shaq or Wilt but his body size and speed can outmuscle majority of his defenders when he is streaking through the paint.

So when the stars aligned to give Malone Jerry Sloan, who implemented the pick and roll as him in the scoring end, as his coach and premier point guard John Stockton as his partner who makes the decisions and issues the pass, its no surprise that “The Mailman” is second only to Jabbar in most points scored.

James Harden
Key stats: 24.3 PPG, 44.3% from the field, 36.5% from three, 85.7% from the foul line, 118 offensive rating.

I put Harden in the Karl Malone category because he also has a couple unstoppable scoring abilities and was placed in the right system for that capability to flourish.

Harden’s scoring ability is primarily known because of an unstoppable step-back three point shot and his slashing to the basket.

The spotlight finally shone of these abilities when Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni implemented a system where Harden is isolated way out, handed the ball majority of the times, and is surrounded by shooters.

Harden, of course, is a given far more deadly free throw shooter than Malone but is less inferior from the field.

The thing, though, is this approach might deprive Harden the championships, just like Sloan’s system did to Malone.

Stephen Curry
Key stats: 23.5 PPG, 47.7% from the field, 43.6% from three, 90.5% from the foul line, 118 offensive rating.

Reggie Miller
Key stats: 18.2 PPG, 47.1% from the field, 39.5% from three, 88.8% from the foul line, 121 offensive rating.

It is hard not to include these guys who possess a deadly three point shot and the ability to make baskets by penetrating the lane.

Miller would have finished higher in the scoring list and would have better chances of getting a title had the Pacers paired him with players who can shoot from the distance earlier in his career.

There is no better complement to one’s scoring ability than a defense that sticks to his face even when he doesn’t have the ball. The man of Miller had been chasing all over the floor, mostly when he doesn’t have yet the ball. It may surprise a lot of you that Miller owns the best offensive rating among all names mentioned in parts 1 and 2 of this series at 121.

Curry remedied the Miller chase situation by extending his range waaaay out. He became a scoring machine who is difficult to stop when he would consistently connected shots from 40 feet, even beyond, and the Warriors reacted properly by surrounding him with lots of shooters and slashers.

Dominique Wilkins
Key stats: 24.8 PPG, 46.1% from the field, 31.9% from three, 81.1% from the foul line, 112 offensive rating.

He probably owns one of the the most electrifying penetrations in NBA history and a decent outside shot. The scoreboard is expected to lit up once “The Human Highlight Film” goes to his right and streaks to the basket.

Allen Iverson
Key stats: 26.7 PPG, 42.5% from the field, 31.3% from three, 78.0% from the foul line, 105 offensive rating.

He probably owns the most electrifying crossover in NBA history that became the catalyst for his scoring ability. This crossover, which became the highlight of Iverson’s career, when coupled with his speed, made points for Iverson by fooling many defenders including one Michael Jordan.

Is Morrey right in his claim? In my opinion, he isn’t.

By:  Armando M. Bolislis, stats from NBA.com and Basketballreference.com
Banner illustration by Don Ray Ramos

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