Most basketball fans agree that Michael Jordan is the GOAT, but Houston’s general manager Daryl Morey would argue James Harden has a leg up on the sport’s most iconic player in one area.
Morey argued Harden is a more prolific offensive player than “His Airness” ever was on the “Selfmade with Nadeshot” podcast Thursday.
“It’s just factual that James Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan,” Morey said.
Harden, 29, is fresh off the best offensive season of his career. He averaged 36.1 points and 7.5 assists in 78 appearances for a Houston team that was dependent on his ability to draw fouls and crafty shot making. The 2017-18 MVP led the NBA in scoring last season and tallied the league’s highest points per game average since Michael Jordan averaged 37.1 points in the 1986-87 season.
Morey, is the creator of Houston’s analytics-based offensive system known as “Moreyball” and says statistics make him ranking Harden above Jordan logical.
“Based on literally, like 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,” Morey said.
Harden has been an All-Star in each of his seven seasons with the Rockets, has led the league in possessions per game for the last three seasons and has won the last two scoring titles.
The argument for Jordan being the better offensive player stems from the fact that basketball has evolved. The game is faster, players shoot more and scoring is up. But Morey is holding onto his beliefs.
“The counterargument is reasonable,” Morey said. “They say if you put Michael Jordan on a team now he would do more than James Harden. That’s possible. But if you’re just saying: ‘NBA history, if you give this guy the ball, how much does his team score after you give him the ball before the other team gets the ball?’ It’s James Harden. And I know that makes people mad, but it’s literally a fact.”
Houston has had plenty of success in the regular season with Harden as the centerpiece, but has yet to reach the NBA Finals in the Harden era. But it shipped off Chris Paul and an assortment of future draft picks to bring in the 2016-17 MVP in Russell Westbrook for 2019-20.
The Rockets have two elite, high-usage guards on their team, and Morey believes Harden alongside a triple-double machine like Westbrook can get Houston over the hump.