James Harden is a generational star who helped change the sport in a good way. In 2009, when asked which NBA players he would compare himself to, Harden named Manu Ginobili and Paul Pierce. How accurate was his statement back then?
One thing similar between Harden and Manu is that both are left-handed. They are both exceptional shooters, too. The Beard thought of Manu because of their ability to get to their spot on the floor and score. Ginobili, at his peak, was unguardable. He had the uncanny ability to change direction effortlessly, confusing the defender by changing the pivot in the last second. He made up what he lacked in heft and height with his IQ on the court.
With Harden, he’s become a point-guard, scoring machine, combo guard hybrid. His game blossomed after getting traded to the Houston Rockets. James already showed his potential in Oklahoma City Thunder, but with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook around, he had to step back a bit to let the other two do their stuff. In Houston, Harden unleashed his creativity because he was given the freedom to do what he wants on the floor. He maximized his potential and played the point guard spot, which eventually pushed his status to superstardom.
When saying that he was part Manu Ginobili, the Arizona State University probably recognized the Argentinian’s ability to contribute off the bench. Manu was perfectly comfortable leading the 2nd unit of San Antonio Spurs and was always ready when his number was called.
Same pace with Paul Pierce
On the other hand, Paul Pierce is a big guard. He played the small forward/power forward position. One similarity between his and Harden’s game is their ability to play according to their own pace. Pierce’s quickness was deceptive, he may appear big and slow, but he would catch his defender off guard. The Celtics legend also knew how to use his body to protect the ball absorbing contact, and still make the basket. Same with James Harden, he can be deceptively quick. He knows when to throw his defender off-balance, hence the super effective step-back jumper.
Both Pierce and Harden can also score off the ball. They know how to pick their spots on the floor and rarely force things. When he was still with the OKC Thunder, Harden had to play support. In Houston, he was asked to do more heavy lifting. Now in Brooklyn Net, he was asked to be just Harden, who transitioned his game as a facilitator than a heavy scorer.