The James Harden-Chris Paul Phenomenon

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What if I were to tell you the most overrated and most underrated players in NBA history are both actively playing in today’s league? That’s right, Chris Paul and James Harden. Most of you will not agree with this statement, but maybe afterwards you will be convinced. James Harden is the most UNDERRATED player in NBA history, and Chris Paul is the most OVERRATED player in our league. Why is this you may ask? Here’s why:

To be honest, I wanted to begin with the player the public would agree less on. Unfortunately, the insane skill set and rating given to both of these players are both so socially accepted one way or another it is hard to sway the opinion one way or another. But, for no exact reason whatsoever, we will start with James Harden. I’m not going to say he’s the best player in the league or even close to that. What I will say is he gets absolutely no respect for what he does on the court every single game.

To begin, James Harden led a sorry Houston Rockets team to a playoff berth and a win against the 73-win Golden State Warriors. To put this in perspective, Harden scored a whopping 29 points per game. 29 points! And let’s not forget his 7.3 assists per game. Very few players in history have even had one season averaging those numbers on a nightly basis. Take his name off his stat line, and it’s not unrealistic at all to give that player an MVP award. Given Stephen Curry’s historic season and LeBron James’s NBA Finals performance that may just be the greatest finals comeback of all time, Harden obviously was out of the running anyway. All-NBA first team? He should be a lock. However, guard combo was Curry and Russell Westbrook. There’s no way I’m going to argue Harden over Westbrook. At this point, a player averaging 29 points per game should be no doubt in the second team. Once again, he was not selected. In fact, the player that averaged 29 points a night didn’t even make the THIRD All-NBA team. For Pete’s sake, he lost to Kyle Lowry in the voting for the team. How is this even possible? Keep reading, and by the end, I promise I will explain.

Moving on to the most overrated player in NBA history–Chris Paul. It’s not even his thought of rating to actual skill ratio that gives him this name. I draw it up to the basic fact that no one even thinks about recognizing this player is any worse than he is. I can already hear Stephen A. Smith yelling “blasphemy” at the top of his lungs. I know I won’t change anyone’s mind with any illogical thinking whatsoever, so I will make this all about statistics. Chris Paul averaged 19.9 points and 10 assists per game. That is pretty impressive, but I would rather a player who scored, I don’t know, 29 points and 7.3 assists per game. Yet, Chris Paul was named to the All-NBA second team, giving him the name of a top 3 guard in the NBA today. I am not trying to bash on a good stat line, but those numbers aren’t quite top 3 stats.

Not convinced? Chris Paul has had only one season where he averaged above 20 points per game, and that was in 2009 when the Hornets were relatively irrelevant. Here’s one more thought that begs this question the most. Let’s take a look at Dwight Howard. He’s been to one NBA Finals and got dominated by Kobe Bryant. Now he is basically known as a lockdown defender and nothing else. The man gets constant criticism, and for a good reason. Next, we have Carmelo Anthony, who has averaged at least 20 points per game in every single season of his entire 14-year NBA career. Unfortunately, Anthony gets an unimaginable amount of criticism thrown at him. He just hasn’t had the team needed to ever go far, never even seeing the NBA Finals and only ever playing in one Semifinals series. Now, we have Chris Paul. He’s never been to the Finals either. He’s never even sniffed a conference finals throughout his entire career. He’s had the lob city of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and himself for over 5 years and has never made it past the second round. He let his team get beat by Damien Lillard and a flat-out horrific Portland Trailblazers team. Stephen Curry is getting major criticism for not playing at his best in the best NBA Finals of all time, while Chris Paul gets nothing but love and support while never getting close to playing for a championship. Only one word describes this major disappointment: overrated.

Why is it accepted as fact that Chris Paul is and excellent basketball player and James Harden is an okay player that doesn’t play defense? The answer is the media. It’s no mystery why players’ stats and skill sets get misinterpreted the same time social media becomes such a big part of our daily lives. It’s so easy to find just one good or bad moment in someone’s career and stretch it into telling exactly how good a player is. How are you supposed to argue towards the favor of James Harden when seeing a defense mean on a daily basis? How are you supposed to think Stephen Curry is a ton better than Paul when you see Curry get blocked by LeBron James (who is 6’7″) in the NBA Finals, while Chris Paul has never even been found in that sort of spotlight? It may not be the popular choice, but the media has become the essence of modern-day sports, and ultimately the core of the James Harden-Chris Paul Phenomenon.

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