In a frankly inexplicable decisions by the members of the NBA media, James Harden, who led the NBA in total points, in minutes by more than 200 and free throws made by 165, did not make the All-NBA first, second or third team.
Harden finished the season with averages of 29 points, 7.5 assists, 6.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. The list of players who have averaged 29-7-6 and played 70 games or more in a season includes Harden, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson.
Harden is the only player in NBA history to have averaged at least 29-7-6 and played all 82 games in a season. And he wasn't even selected for the All-NBA third team.
Obviously we know why Harden wasn't voted in. His defense was laughable for a good chunk of the season, the Rockets finished 41-41 despite lofty expectations and much of the blame for the lackadaisical way they played ball this year fell on his shoulders. Those are fair criticisms, but do NBA writers really believe that Klay Thompson, who averaged 22 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists and was the third-best player on his team, was actually better than Harden this year? Thompson was the second third-team guard, along with Kyle Lowry. Apparently plenty of them do.
People will respond by saying this doesn't matter very much, but in the NBA where legacies are ultimately weighted when careers are said and done by accolades — All-Star teams, MVP trophies/votes, and All-NBA teams — not racking up one in a season that was singular in NBA history for offensive production and durability is a crime of NBA history. Much like Karl Malone's 1997 MVP award.
It's been a long held belief of Rockets fans that the national media disrespects the team. People outside our community tend to shake their heads at this — lots of fanbases feel this way — but this year there has been overwhelming proof. Charles Barkley is one of the loudest voices in the NBA sphere and he had to apologize on air to the Rockets because his years of attacks against the organization turned personal. At the very least, we read every day the past two-three years that people hate watching the Rockets play because of Harden's ability to draw fouls.
It had gone too far before, but this is an insane leap. Look at this in a vacuum. This year James Harden:
- Led the league in total points and was second in points per game
- Led the league in minutes and free throws by a goddamn mile
- Led the Rockets to the playoffs with his supporting cast consisting of Dwight Howard — who admitted to not trying — a so/so Trevor Ariza, a tire fire in Ty Lawson, and a rotating cast of characters at power forward so terrible that Ariza started double-digit games at the four.
- Again: maintained averages only three of the 12 greatest players of all time have ever done over the course of a season, and played all 82 games, which no one has ever done with those numbers
This was not your average snubbing. This was a historical, unconscionable collective disrespecting of Harden by the NBA media that I hope will lead to serious introspection on how fairly they treat this team.
Did Harden have his best season? No. Did the Rockets suck this year? Objectively, no. They were mediocre. The Sixers sucked. The Rockets beat the Thunder (twice) and Spurs and took a game off the Warriors in the playoffs. Failing to live up to expectations is not the same as completely failing.
Harden was on an island for the Rockets this year. Many games, the secondary scoring punch on the Rockets came from Marcus Thornton, who was so bad defensively that the Rockets waived him despite needing his bench scoring. Of the players who finished the season on the Rockets, only Harden, Howard and Ariza even finished in the double-digits in points scored.
Did Klay Thompson and Kyle Lowry have great seasons? Of course, and they should be lauded with it. But to say that either of them — particularly Klay — were objectively better than Harden is a fool. Even the Raptors had better players around Lowry than the Rockets had around Harden.
It's clear the negative perception of Harden and the Rockets has just gone too far. This only proves it farther.