James Harden in the early 80s, what is his career like?

Let’s say Harden is drafted to an OK team in the 80s and the team says “Gee we got this incredible offensive player, we are going to build our team around him jacking shots and running into people, fuck defense.” The team is a big market team. How does this work out?

I think the rules wouldn’t be in his favor


He wouldn’t be going to the free throw line nearly as much.

He’d be a globetrotter because he’s a traveling star.


No defense, volume shooter, mentally weak… He never makes an all-star team, and might peak at being “microwave scorer off the bench”, like Eddie Robinson.

gets his shit pushed in

Jordan, Thomas, Dumars, Cooper, etc, etc, etc…

the stud defenders with the old rules

he probably doesnt average 10, before he mentally breaks

He wouldve been a high volume scorer. Probably a #1 option on a playoff team. Not a championship team though.

People let their personal dislike of a guy like him cloud their judgement. Hes a good 3pt shooter. Hes good at driving the lane. Good free throw shooter. Those skills would have worked just as well in the 80s as they do now.

Edit: hes an average 3pt shooter. Not great, but good enough to be a threat.

He would get his ass kicked on the regular by 80s NBA
He’s too soft

1 Like

^ This

Not only does he have a well-rounded variety of elite offensive skills, he also would have been a physical freak. How many 6’5" 230 lb combo guards were around back then who could deal with both his strength and his quickness off the bounce? Sure, superstar defenders with elite length like Jordan and Pippen could have given him fits, but what about the other 99% of the guards/wings across the league? Someone mentioned Isiah Thomas guarding him. He has 4" and 50 pounds on Isiah. He would have iso’d and posted up Isiah all day. Ditto for Michael Cooper, who could match his length, but was even lighter than Isiah. And for the folks saying ‘Harden doesn’t post up’, that’s because the defensive rules are different now. If he grew up in an era where defenses couldn’t play zone concepts, his fat ass would certainly have developed post-up skills to use his girth to his advantage.

That said, I think he tops out with an Alex English-like career in that era. A guy who wins scoring titles, makes the all-star team every year, but who never leads a good team.

1 Like

I didn’t think too highly of Harden until he came to BK, he put his ego aside and did whatever was necessary for the team. The dude actually played good defense this past season. I have no doubt he’d thrive in any era he’s too good not to.

You casual fans need to get passed the idea of Harden not playing defense. He’s a very solid defender with a long wingspan and he’s strong. He has a positive defensive plus minus for his career. He’s also an EXCELLENT rebounding guard. He’s also one of the best passers in the NBA.

He would be an all-NBA player and MVP caliber player in any era. He would still find a way to stink it up in the playoffs in clutch games, but the bottom line is he’s played nearly 2 full seasons of playoff games. He’s been to 4 conference finals and 1 NBA finals. It’s not like he’s Tracy McGrady level playoff terrible.

1 Like