James Harden has dominated as the best player in Texas for many years, but that streak is no longer with a new superstar dominating just North of Houston
James Harden has been the best player in Texas for a number of years now across all three Texan teams in the NBA.
The 2017-18 season MVP winner is a scoring machine and has led the Houston Rockets to seven-straight playoff appearances after leaving Oklahoma City at the end of the 2011-12 season. Harden has never managed to lift the Rockets to an NBA Finals series, however, being bundled out of the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors in four of the last five seasons.
It is not often that a superstar of Harden’s caliber is matched by anyone across the state of Texas, let alone across the entire NBA competition.
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It is also not often that a kid like Luka Doncic steps into the league.
The Slovenian sensation took the NBA by storm in his rookie season, picking up the NBA Rookie of the Year Award whilst picking up some very impressive stat-lines. The Mavericks picked up Doncic with the third pick of the 2018 NBA Draft and have not regretted their choice.
To start the 2019-20 season, Luka has improved his game so quickly that he has taken over as the best player in Texas and one of the front-runners for the NBA MVP award.
With an 11-5 record, Dallas has risen to 4th in the Western Conference after finishing 2nd-to-last in the conference in the 2018-19 season. They have knocked off three teams with a .500-plus record including the Raptors and Nuggets, their latest triumph against Harden and the Rockets the most impressive of all.
So how has Doncic passed Harden?
For starters, he has surpassed Harden in almost every statistical category except for points-per-game. Luka hits on 49.5 percent of his field-goal attempts, 35 percent from 3-point range and an amazing 62 percent of all 2-point attempts whilst maintaining a very healthy 30.6 points-per-game average.
Harden, on the other hand, has struggled with his shooting form to begin the season. His 43.5 percent field goal conversion rate is his lowest average since his rookie year, way back in the 2009-10 season. He is also only converting on 33.7 percent of his 3-point attempts, highlighted by his struggles against the Mavericks where he only managed to connect on 2 of his 15 attempts from downtown.
Harden’s points-per-game average is an unbelievably high 37.9 points-per-game, currently ranked 4th of any player in NBA history (behind Wilt Chamberlain 3 times). But Harden’s stats are inflated to an extent by his ability to get to the free-throw line, shooting a whopping 14.2 free throws per game on average. Harden is currently averaging slightly more than 12 points-per-game from the charity stripe, almost one-third of his entire point-per-game average.
Luka Doncic has also passed Harden in other aspects of the game. His 10.1 rebound-per-game average is significantly higher than his average of 7.8 rebounds each game from last season. His assist average each game also sits at 9.8, far higher than his six assists a game average last year showing how good Luka has become at making his team-mates better around him.
The young Slovenian is just 0.2 assists per-game short of averaging a triple-double each game, incredible when you remember he is just 20 years-old in just his second NBA season. He has led the Mavericks to be ranked in the top 10 in both assists and rebounds per game, with their 119.1 points-per-game average ranking 3rd across the entire NBA. He is the main reason why the Mavericks are all of a sudden, a Western Conference contender after their dismal season last year.
On the other side, Houston is just a game behind the Mavericks but sit 6th in the Western Conference. They are currently on a three-game losing streak and have suffered five losses against teams with a .500-plus record including the Bucks, Clippers and most recently the Mavericks.
It could be argued that the addition of Russell Westbrook has impacted Harden’s efficiency by having another dominant offensive ball-handler on the team, but Harden has still averaged a similar amount of shot attempts per-game in comparison to last season. He just quite simply has not been as effective shooting the ball, meaning a lot of empty possessions on offense for the Rockets.
The final turning point came in the game that pitted the two superstars against each other when the Mavericks traveled South to face the Rockets.
Doncic thoroughly outplayed Harden putting up 41 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds and most importantly, leading the Mavericks to an important victory. The catalyst for the pair’s performance was the last quarter when the game was on the line.
With just over eight minutes left, the Rockets had cut the game to five points with the Mavericks leading 110-105. From there Doncic caught fire putting up 13 points as the Mavericks went on a 25-8 run to ice the game, Luka putting the team on his back when it mattered most.
Over that same stretch, Harden missed three consecutive 3-point attempts and did not score a single point whilst also committing two turnovers, not reliable enough for a player of his caliber.
Of course, this argument purely comes down to a matter of opinion due to the incredible standard both these athletes sustain each game. But right now, the stats don’t lie and Luka Doncic is currently the best player in Texas and one of the best in the NBA.