Every-Thing Sports

Why those quick to crown Luka over Harden need some perspective

Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Luka Doncic is the new "it" guy in the NBA Bubble, and it's easy to see why. He's been leading his Mavs team to a very competitive 2-2 tie against one of the Western Conference contenders in the L.A. Clippers. He put up a 40-point triple double in game four and hit the game-winner at the buzzer in overtime. The 21-year-old Slovenian is a superstar that's put the league on notice. After a really good rookie campaign (21/8/6 pts/reb/ast), he followed it up this season by damn near averaging a triple double (29/9/9 pts/reb/ast), started the All Star game, and routinely put the Mavs on his back leading them to the seven seed in the West.

While he draws comparisons to some of the game's best playmakers, his game resembles a current star who's not as beloved: James Harden. At 6'7 and 230lbs, Luka is taller and a tad bit heavier than Harden (especially after Harden's recent weight loss). With a bigger frame, and a willingness to mix it up, Luka is a better rebounder. Luka is more of a true point guard and Harden is more of a scorer as a combo hybrid, but both are good distributors of the ball as they each have never averaged less than six assists per game in their time as primary ball handlers. The step-back jumper is what Luka has used as his go-to offensive weapon. It's something he has clearly patterned after Harden, especially given Harden's success with the move over the last few years.

The question at hand: Why is Luka celebrated, while Harden is maligned? Luka has a game very similar to Harden's. He has even taken one of Harden's patented moves and incorporated into his repertoire. Let's take a look into the differences between these two superstars:

Lukability

On the surface, Luka is a smiling and friendly European baller who seems to be very engaging. Harden is perceived as aloof and not as open with the media. Harden's tone when talking is monotone and comes off as filling an obligation, while Luka seems to relish the spotlight. Harden's penchant for getting after refs for calls (whining and/or flopping) makes him less likable. Couple that with the fact that Luka has only been in the league for two years and hasn't managed to alienate anyone, adds to his likability.

Clutch gene

As I stated above, Luka went for a 40-point triple double and hit the game winner at the buzzer to tie his playoff series at two. Harden went for 32/8/15 in a three point loss that tied the Rockets' series with the Thunder at two games a piece. He couldn't close out the game on offense or help make a key stop on defense in game four. Not to mention his past playoff failures, it's easy to see why Luka is being seen as more clutch so early on in his career than Harden has been.

Recency bias

Luka is the flavor of the month right now. He's like a "new" pair of retro Jordans that have been re-released for the 3194th time. It's an almost carbon copy of something we've seen before, but it has a different wrapping, packaging, and millennial twist to it. Food products often re-package themselves as "new and improved." In reality, there's been a slight change from the original, but the marketing has been ramped up to the max to boost sales. That's what I see here between Luka and Harden. Luka is the "new and improved" Frosted Flakes only because they've figured out how to make the "old" formula (Harden) taste better with recent advancements in the science behind making it.

I love basketball. I grew up playing, studying, and watching the sport. I'm not saying Luka is better than Harden, or vice versa. That is an opinion-based narrative for each person to make. Personally, I'd take Luka over Harden in most cases, depending on the makeup of the rest of the roster. But that's just me. Call me a hater all you want. Deep down, you and I both know he has something special about him that Harden doesn't. I harken back to one of my favorite episodes of Chapelle's Show when Charlie Murphy (RIP) did his True Hollywood Stories and spoke of meeting Rick James. In the sketch, Charlie said something like Rick had an aura he hadn't seen in other famous people before. Luka has that aura. Harden is special, but he doesn't have an aura. And that's where the comparison ends.

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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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