James Harden

Rockets GM Daryl Morey: 'It's just factual that James Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan'

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AP

Rockets GM Daryl Morey: 'It's just factual that James Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan'

Is Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all-time? Yes, he sure is.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can save our anger that inevitably would be directed at Daryl Morey by Bulls fans.

In a recent interview appearance on Selfmade (via YouTube), Morey became the latest person to argue that a current NBA player is better than Jordan.

"It's just factual that James Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan," Morey said. "You give James Harden the ball, and before you're giving up the ball how many points do you generate, which is how you should measure offense, James Harden is by far No. 1 in NBA history."

Talk about a hot take. Let's review some numbers:

-Jordan averaged 30.1 points per game in 15 seasons; Harden has averaged 24.3 points in his 10 NBA seasons. However, Harden was the third option behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for three seasons before the Rockets acquired him.
-Jordan held a 49.7 field goal percentage (on 22.9 attempts/game, while Harden holds a 44.3 percentage on 16.2 attempts/game.
-Jordan converted 32.7 percent of his three-point attempts (on just 1.7 attempts/game), while Harden has converted 36.5 percent of his (on 7.3 attempts/game).

In fairness, Morey did acknowledge that if Jordan played in the NBA today, he could do "more" than Harden offensively. At the same time, the NBA is much more offensive-oriented today than it was when Jordan played, making his accomplishments that much more impressive. Harden still trails Jordan in the aforementioned categories despite playing in the league today, too.

So, factually, is Harden better than Jordan? No, but you can't blame Morey for trying to create positive spin around his franchise player. Both are elite, but there's only one true G.O.A.T.

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NBA Power Rankings: New year, same old Steph Curry

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USA TODAY

NBA Power Rankings: New year, same old Steph Curry

While the NBA certainly had a parity-filled 2018, 2019 could be a different story. We still have every team in the West sans Phoenix competing for a playoff spot. But we are quickly approaching the NBA trade deadline and the buyout period. This when NBA teams will start to make their moves, whether it be dumping salary or adding a valuable rotation piece to boost playoff hopes.

And as teams start to fill out their rosters, we will start to see the back-end of the NBA draft lottery standings take shape. Squads like the Nets and Kings are close to ending playoff droughts but a few moves could heavily determine if they will be headed back to the draft lottery.

The MVP race has also been extremely close for most of the season, with several candidates looking like serious contenders. But with Giannis Antetokounmpo attacking the rim with aplomb, Kawhi Leonard achieving a career-high in points (45) and James Harden literally carrying the Rockets to wins every night, the MVP race is starting to clear up as well.

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But there is one name—that has less than a 5 percent chance to win MVP according to Basketball-Reference's 2018-19 MVP Award Tracker—to watch this week specifically, and that is none other than two-time MVP Stephen Curry. 

Steph has played in less games than all the other MVP candidates, so he is fighting an uphill battle. And the fact that he is just barely leading his team in scoring because of the presence of Kevin Durant does not help him. But storylines rule all when it comes to NBA MVP races, and the narrative of the Warriors looking more vulnerable than usual can get flipped quickly if Curry goes supernova.

In the Dubs win over the Suns on New Year's Eve, Curry poured in 34 points on a hyper-efficient 64 percent shooting from the field to go along with 9 rebounds and 4 assists. And that night—just like so many others this season—showed that Curry is just as good as he was during his back-to-back MVP seasons, and that he is clearly the most important player on this team. 

The Rockets and Warriors play on Thursday at Oracle Arena. The showdown will be huge as a matchup between several MVP hopefuls (if you throw in Durant). And between Harden's play as of late and the fact that the Warriors got blown out by Houston in their only other matchup so far this year, you can definitely expect to see both squads—and Curry specifically—get off to a quick start. 

That game is just one of many this week that will go a long way towards painting a better picture of the NBA's hierarchy. Check out our latest update in the NBA Power Rankings right here

Justin Holiday's breakout year could make him a valuable trade asset

Justin Holiday's breakout year could make him a valuable trade asset

On Wednesday, KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls veteran players are being made available in trade talks. And Justin Holiday specifically, has the skill set to enhance many of the league's best franchises. 

In the Bulls one-point loss to the Denver Nuggets, Chicago hit 16 of their 34 3-point attempts, with Justin Holiday accounting for roughly 15 percent of the makes.

The Bulls have so far become a close to a league average offense, a huge step for a team that was bottom-three in terms of offensive efficiency last season.

Holiday has made himself into a player that can provide tremendous value to an offense and is enough of a gamer on defense to make sure he isn’t a net negative, provided the proper structure.

Holiday is such a solid veteran presence that is would probably benefit the Bulls to keep him around such a young team. But whether he makes it through the rebuild or not, it is clear that Holiday has found his niche in the league.

At 6-foot, 6-inches, Holliday has solid length for the shooting guard position. He has made himself into an awesome offensive player, due to the shifting of majority of his offense to the 3-point line, like Miami's Wayne Ellington, who takes over 70 percent of his shots from 3-point range. Holiday is averaging 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists with 1.4 steals per game. 

Because of Zach LaVine's ball-dominant role, Holiday has a career-low in terms of usage rate this season (13 percent). This yet another factor that shows how much more effective Holiday can be when playing next to star players (or more accurately players with inredibly high usage rates). This extends to both sides of the floor, though his defensive benefits haven't been on display much on this year's Bulls team.

Holiday's defense doesn’t hold up well against bigger forwards and he has been tasked with guarding players like this (think LeBron James, Tobias Harris, etc.) for much of the last three seasons. This comes from the fact that the last time Holiday wasn’t on the small-forward-thin Bulls, he was playing for the New York Knicks, who had the defensively-challenged Carmelo Anthony and the average, if uninspiring Lance Thomas playing ahead of him.

When Holiday plays on a team with solid perimeter defense, he is allowed to be aggressive and trust his instincts.

In his lone year with Golden State Warriors (small sample size alert) Holiday posted a 3 percent steal rate (a high figure for that metric) and has not achieved a number near that since the 2015-16 season. And while his defense is solid, he is not a game-changer.

The Bulls need game-changers and Holiday is not that. He is a player who would defensively work best on a team with a sound defensive concept, which Chicago does not have. This season there has been more than one moment in which you can see Holiday visibly frustrated with the team's on-court performance. At 29 years old and with less than 15 minutes of playoff experience, it's understandable.


All that being said, if you are adding Holiday to your roster, you aren’t doing it because of his playoff experience (or lack therof) or value on defense. You are adding him for his versatile fit. Holiday has evolved his skill set to the point where he can fit in with almost any team, but he would specifically open things up for some of the teams around the league that consider themselves contenders. Here is a look at the two best fits for Holiday from the Eastern and Western Conference respectively:

Philadelphia 76ers:

Philadelphia has built their successful offense around the talents of Joel Embiid and uber-unique point forward Ben Simmons. Neither player is a above average 3-point shooter, so the offense’s effectiveness comes from the fact that head coach Brett Brown throws out so many capable shooters around the dynamic duo.

This year, the Sixers have taken a step back on offense. This is partly due to the implementation of another non-shooter (Markelle Fultz) to the rotation and partly due to Dario Saric’s shooting from outside falling off of a cliff. They are in need of a bigger fish, but a solid 3-and-D wing would do wonders for their team.

With Philadelphia having enough size to hide players like J.J. Redick, assimilating Holiday would be easy. And just like in Houston, Holiday would be encouraged to shoot from 3-point range more than ever, despite already averaging a career-high in attempts.

If you look at two-man lineup information for the Sixers, the numbers of the Simmons-Fultz combination stand out. The pair currently has a 88.5 offensive rating, dead-last among the Sixers most played two-man groups. That figure would be a catastrophically low number for a modern NBA team, and what it represents is the fact that the Sixers can not sustain a capable offense with those two on the floor together.

Splitting up the amount of time Simmons and Fultz spend on the floor together should be Philadelphia’s top priority this year. And to do that, they need more players who can guard the one-through-three positions on defense while being extremely aggressive from 3-point range. Enter Justin Holiday.

With the Sixers cupboard still full of interesting draft picks despite being a contender, the time would be now for them to acquire additional veteran shooters to push their offense back to 2017-18 levels.

Houston Rockets:

The Rockets re-emerged on the national stage behind the talents of superstar James Harden and their to-the-extreme four-out, one-in offense that features getting up a hefty amount of 3-pointers. As of late, that offense has tailed off, and this is mostly due to the drop off among their group of role players.

After the loss of competitive two-way players like Luc Richard Mbah Moute and Trevor Ariza, the Rockets find themselves hurting in more ways than one.

Houston is still the best team in the league in terms of 3-point attempt rate, but their percentage of 3-point makes has dropped precipitously (33 percent this year vs 36 percent last year).

The absence of James Harden in a couple of games has obviously played a factor, as he was attempting over 8 3-pointers per game when he went down. If Harden's hamstring issues persist longer, Houston will need shooting guard help, unless they want to find themselves desperate for wins upon his return. 

The Rockets have shown that they are willing to give up draft picks in a trade (see the proposed Jimmy Butler deal), and it is almost too easy to see Holiday fitting into their 3-point happy offense and switching defense. If his shooting percentage from deep holds up, Houston and Chicago would make ideal trade partners.