Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Strong opinions usually follow the mentioning of James Harden's name. He's one of those athletes that fans seem to either love or hate, with no in between. Due to the emotion the name brings in sports debate, hyperbole can flow fluidly. In the age of social media, opinions from random fans who run social media or blog sites, podcasts, etc, can create a narrative that attach to athletes like the scarlet letter on Hester Prynne. Once branded, ye must wear hence forth, never to shed, past shame.
Whether in the media or a fan of the game, we can all be prideful to our opinions. We draw a line in the sand and never cross it...until "he / she" wins a title and the player is then purified of their sins.
There's many scarlet letters that adorn Harden as he enters the arena, nightly. Some of the most repeated are:
- "Playoff choker"
- "Shoots too many free throws"
- "Shoots too many shots"
- "Has too many turnovers"
- "Doesn't play defense"
I wanted to look at the top 10 scorers in these playoffs and compare Harden to his peers, to see if these knocks on him still held up in 2020. Below are the top 10 scorers in the 2020 playoffs and where James Harden ranks among these elite players in each category: (per game)
|PLAYER'S NAME||Pts||FGAs / TS%||FTAs / FT %||Rebs||Assists||Steals||Turnovers|
|Donovan Mitchell||37.6||22.5 / 72.7%||9.3 / 94.6%||4.3||5.5||1.2||3.3|
|Jamal Murray||34.0||21.7 / 72.8%||3.8 / 91.3%||6.2||6.7||0.5||2.0|
|Kawhi Leonard||32.8||21.7 / 63.9%||9.2 / 85.5%||10.2||5.2||2.3||2.5|
|James Harden||31.8||21.0 / 64.2%||8.6 / 83.7%||6.6||8.0||1.8||2.6|
|Luka Doncic||31.0||21.3 / 59.6%||10.7 / 65.6%||9.8||8.7||1.2||5.2|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||30.6||20.0 / 65.1%||8.0 / 62.5%||16.0||6.0||0.6||3.8|
|Joel Embiid||30.0||18.5 / 60.0%||14.8 / 81.4%||12.3||1.3||1.5||3.8|
|Anthony Davis||29.8||17.8 / 65.6%||11.2 / 71.4%||9.4||4.2||1.4||1.2|
|Nikola Vucevic||28.0||22.2 / 60.4%||2.2 / 90.9%||11.0||4.0||0.8||2.6|
|LeBron James||27.4||16.0 / 70.8%||7.6 / 73.7%||10.2||10.2||1.2||5.0|
These are some of the most elite players in the game, all playing with the same variables. It's early in these playoffs, but to this point, Harden has given his team a 3-2 series lead, even though, Russell Westbrook missed the first four games of the playoffs, before returning in game five and seeing 24 minutes of action.
Harden's overall ranking among the top playoff scorers (above), so far:
- 31.8 points (4th)
- 21.0 field goal attempts (6th)
- 8.6 free throw attempts (6th)
- 6.6 rebounds (8th)
- 8.0 assists (3rd)
- 1.8 steals (2nd)
- 2.6 turnovers (T-4th)
The Oklahoma City Thunder / Chris Paul series is a test for James Harden. Fair or not, Harden won't get a pass from his detractors if Houston goes on to lose the series, despite the Westbrook injury. If he and the Rockets move on, Harden, I believe, can win over some critics with his showing in "Brody and The Beard take on The BrowKing" (work in progress, apologies).
That chapter has yet to be written as Harden and Westbrook, still have to closeout a talented Thunder team. The book on Harden is fantastic, whether fan or foe or some point in between. I don't know how this chapter or the next ends, but as far as the narratives, to this point, they fall flat. We'll see if he arrives to the King's court and takes the throne or if he plays jester. Maybe the slaying of the King wins over the detractors. For others it may take victory over two kings, LeBron James and the reigning, King of the North, Kawhi Leonard with his new army.
And for others, two thrones will not be enough, as kingdom's fall to the power of the ring ..."my precious." Even with multiple kingdom's in the west, many won't respect Harden among the elite until he takes the reins over the nation with victory over the east following the conquering of the west. Then and only then, will he be forgiven and shed his final, scarlet letter.
The Houston Astros were in need of some serious help in the bullpen with Phil Maton, Hector Neris, and Ryne Stanek likely leaving this year in free agency.
The Houston Astros have acquired RHP Dylan Coleman from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Carlos Mateo. pic.twitter.com/hDYuBLn2Kv
— Houston Astros (@astros) December 6, 2023
While some fans were getting concerned about the quiet offseason, the club has made two moves this week to get the ball rolling.
First the team signed Victor Caratini to be the backup catcher, and now they have added some relief pitching.
The Astros traded pitching prospect Carlos Mateo to the Royals for RHP pitcher Dylan Coleman.
Coleman appeared in 96 games in the past three seasons for KC, including 68 games in 2022 and 23 games last season. He has a career 3.88 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He’s fastball (95 mph), slider (81) and cutter (90) and walked 57 batters and struck out 99 in 92 2/3 innings.
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) December 6, 2023
Coleman is under club control for the next several years, and made just over $700,000 in 2022. With the Astros right up against the tax threshold, this is a good way to add to the bullpen without having to hand out a large contract.
The Royals had a tough roster decision to make with Coleman, and the Astros made the decision easy for them by making the trade.
Something to note
There's a reason Kansas City wasn't determined to protect Coleman from the Rule 5 Draft. Despite his decent numbers over the last three seasons, 2023 was a rough year for him, posting an 8.84 ERA over 23 games.
In fact, Coleman pitched more innings (30.2) for the Royals AAA team than he did for the big league club (18.1) in 2023.
Hopefully, the Astros can get him back on track this season with some help from their highly touted player development program.
You can watch some of his 2022 highlights above.