Wilt & Harden - PER 48 & NBA Competition

What if you compared James Harden and Wilt Chamberlain's streaks apples-to-apples?


As James Harden moves into NBA real estate that's only had one previous owner, that of Wilt Chamberlain, it's easy to see an apple-to-orange comparison. Chamberlain's history is spectacular but his lore grew without anything close to a fair comparison to today's NBA athletes, minute usage, specialists, analytics and so much more.

For this article, I'll take a look at Chamberlain's best seasons of 1961-62 and 1962-63 and compare it with Harden's current run in 2018-19.

Wilt Chamberlain 1961 - 1963 (Two Seasons Average)

48.1 Minutes Per Game

19.1 Field Goals made per game
37.1 Field Goals attempted per game
52% from the field

9.3 Free Throws made per game
15.5 Free Throws attempted per game

47.6 Points Per Game
25.0 Rebounds Per Game
2.9 Assists Per Game

James Harden 2018 - 2019

37.4 Minutes Per Game
10.7 Field Goals made per game
24.2 Field Goals attempted per game
44% from the field

10.1 Free Throws made per game
11.6 Free Throws attempted per game

36.5 Points Per Game
6.7 Rebounds Per Game
7.8 Assists Per Game
2.2 Steals Per Game

What should jump out to you are two things.

  1. Wilt averaged over 10 minutes more per game of playing time than Harden
  2. Wilt averaged four more free throws a game than Harden

Why are these two things relevant? Well, we often hear fans complain about Harden going to the line too often. It's odd to see that during Wilt's prime he shot on average four more free throws per night.

Secondly, what could Harden do with 10 more minutes per game this season? Over the average of 80 games a season that Chamberlain played during this two year run, those extra 10 minutes per game would equate to 800 more minutes per season.

Harden's average of 37.4 minutes per game would equate to 21 extra NBA games of stats that the Beard would be able to put up with 800 more minutes of playing time. Yet, Harden is still on the Wilt Chamberlain 30-point game streak despite not having those 800 extra minutes of game time.

Wilt averaged 48.1 minutes per game over those two seasons. Another way to show the comparison and try to make it more apples-to-apples is to list Harden's "Per 48" numbers next to Wilt's numbers that he put together while playing over 48 minutes a game.

Wilt at 48.1 in 1961-1963

48.1 - Minutes Per Game
19.1 - Field Goals made per game
37.1 - Field Goals attempted per game

9.3 - Free Throws made per game
15.5 - Free Throws attempted per game

47.6 - Points Per Game
25.0 - Rebounds Per Game
2.9 - Assists Per Game
N/A Steal Per Game

Harden at Per 48 minute Totals for 2018-2019

48 - Minutes Per Game
13.7 - Field Goals made per game
31.1 - Field Goals attempted per game

13.0 Free Throws made per game
14.9 Free Throws attempted per game

46.9 - Points Per Game
8.6 - Rebounds Per Game
10.0 - Assists Per Game
2.8 - Steal Per Game

James Harden Per 48 minutes

73 Points vs Knicks
62 Points vs Nets
57 Points vs 76ers
56 Points vs Suns
56 Points vs Lakers (3 Game Average)
55 Points vs Grizzlies (3 Game Average)
55 Points vs Cavs (2 Game Average)
55 Points vs Celtics
53 Points vs Wizards (2 Game Average)
51 Points vs Kings

The Per 48 Harden would have also averaged 53.9 points per game for the entire month of January.

We can also work the formula backwards and put both players at Per 36 minutes.

Wilt at Per 36 in 1961-1963

36.0 - Minutes Per Game
14.3 - Field Goals made per game
27.8 - Field Goals attempted per game

7.0 - Free Throws made per game
11.6 - Free Throws attempted per game

35.7 - Points Per Game
18.7 - Rebounds Per Game
2.2 - Assists Per Game
N/A - Steal Per Game

Harden at Per 36 for 2018-2019

36.0 - Minutes Per Game
10.3 - Field Goals made per game
23.3 - Field Goals attempted per game

9.7 - Free Throws made per game
11.2 - Free Throws attempted per game

35.2 - Points Per Game 3
6.5 - Rebounds Per Game
7.5 - Assists Per Game
2.1 - Steal Per Game

Even the 18.7 rebounds per 36 or his actual average of 25 rebounds a game isn't as mind-boggling when you look at all of the variables that were so drastically different back when Wilt played.

1960's NBA

There were only eight NBA teams when Wilt Chamberlain put up his best statistical years.

Boston Celtics
Philadelphia Warriors
Minneapolis Lakers
Detroit Pistons
New York Knicks
Syracuse Nationals
Cincinnati Royals
St Louis Hawks

The NBA started ramping up expansion in 1966 and over the next few years, Wilt never again came close to his best statical seasons. Despite still averaging 44.5 minutes per game over the next seven seasons, Wilt only surpassed 25 points per game for a season, once. In the 1969-70 NBA season, Wilt averaged 27.3 points per game.

Chamberlain's rebounding numbers, as spectacular as they look now when compared to other big-men in the league, loses some of its luster.

At 7'1 and 250 pounds, Wilt was something that no one had seen before. Even in the land of giants, Chamberlain hovered above. As his career progressed, Chamberlain's weight did as well, tipping scales at 300 pounds. These numbers might not be eye-popping when compared to today's NBA, but for yesteryear, it seems almost fictitious.

Everyone knows Bill Russell, who won 11 NBA Championships to Chamberlain's two titles in their storied rivalry. Russell came in reportedly around 6'10 and 220 pounds.

From 1959 through the 1965 (six seasons) Bill Russell averaged 24 rebounds per game in 44.3 minutes per game of action. Seeing Russell's rebounding numbers made me want to know what other big men of the 60's did in performance on the boards and if their numbers were inflated due to minute usage as well.

Wes Unseld - Center - 6'7 - 245 pounds

Unseld averaged over 17 rebounds per game in 39.1 minutes over his first five seasons, including 18.2 as a rookie in the league.

Bob Pettit - Power Forward / Center - 6'9 - 205

Pettit averaged 18 rebounds per game from 1957-1962 while playing 39.7 minutes a night. His best two rebounding seasons ran from 1960 to 1962 as he averaged 19.5 rebounds in 41 minutes a game.

Jerry Lucas - Power Forward / Center - 6'8 - 230

Lucas averaged 20 rebounds and 20 points a game while playing 44 minutes on average from his second through fifth NBA seasons which ran from 1964-1968

Dolph Schayes - Power Forward / Center - 6'7 - 195

This giant averaged 14 rebounds a night from 1956-1959. He played 39 minutes a night during this three year stretch.

Willis Reed - Power Forward / Center - 6'9 - 240

The first seven seasons of his career saw him average 14 rebounds per game in 37 minutes of action a night.

Nate Thurmond - Center - 6'11 - 225

From 1964-1969 (five seasons), Nate brought down 20 rebounds a game in just over 42 minutes each contest. In the 1967-68 season he averaged 20.5 points and 22 rebounds per game.

Wilt was a player before his time that was able to take advantage of being bigger than everyone in a league that was truly still in its infancy. None of this is to take away from Wilt Chamberlain being great, it's to add to how uniquely special James Harden's season has been.

No one has done what Harden has done in the modern NBA as he's now gone 31 straight games while scoring 30 or more points. The only people who have ever been in the same realm in recent years are Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.

Due to Wilt's size and the time in which he played, he didn't have to deal with defensive specialists that had fresh legs and the ability to rotate and guard with multiple defenders.

James Harden is a chess master who calculates multiple moves against studied opponents to put them in check, repeatedly. In a sport that's always been dominated by the biggest, strongest and fastest, Harden-haters can't understand the beauty in the real-time mental superiority that Harden possesses to take advantage of every lean, slip, reach, bump, combined with the accuracy to knock down from long range while being a moving target. They complain about the slow speed of the game and everyone just standing around. They complain because they don't understand.

Angrily they tweet as he steps back from 29-feet with the accuracy of a military sniper, hitting the target dead center. "It's a travel", they scream, all-the-while knowing that it wasn't.

It's only fitting that Daryl Morey saw the unlimited ceiling for Harden coming, from the star's time in Oklahoma City. Did Morey know the 6'5, 220-pound guard, who has a great blend of burst, power, balance, accuracy and handles, would have the mental makeup to take advantage of any defender despite size, speed and defensive ability?

Harden hasn't won a title

Wilt Chamberlain was 30 years old when he won his first title and 35 when he won his second and final championship. James Harden is 29 years old and is on the way to his second straight Most Valuable Player award. While people will say he still hasn't won a title, they will leave out the fact that no player has gone to the NBA Finals from the Western Conference other than the Golden State Warriors roster over the last four years. Yet, it's Harden who they say can't get his team there, even though they all watched Harden with a healthy Chris Paul beat the Warriors 3 games to 2 and then only drop the series after Paul was unable to play in games 6 and 7.

They also don't mention that the three games that Harden help lead the Rockets past Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, matches the win total that the rest of the NBA has against the same Warriors team over the last two years in the playoffs. Golden State have beaten their non-Rockets opponents in the playoffs the last two years 28 times with only 3 combined losses.

Once you look at what Harden has done and compare it to everything else on an even playing field, you'll see that you have no other move than to recognize Harden's 2018-2019 season as the best ever. Lay Wilt, MJ, Kobe and the King down in this debate because there was only one player with every move on the board available to him, The Beard. Check mate.

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Houston loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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