The opening round of the NBA Playoffs was nothing short of fantastic. In the Eastern Conference, two series went to seven games while rising stars showcased their talents in the Western Conference.
As we approach the conference finals, the series have become more predictable. Fans are sure to get dominant performances from two of the NBA's best, LeBron James and James Harden.
James' performance against the Toronto Raptors in Games 2 and 3 are becoming something of legend. Many athletes in the sports world were in awe following the game winner in game three, even crowning James the Michael Jordan of our era.
As James carries the Cleveland Cavaliers to another Eastern Conference finals appearance, other players have taken a back seat and haven't been talked about much. James Harden is one of those players.
Harden is in the conversation for league MVP. In 72 regular season game appearances, He averaged 30.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 8.8 steals per game while leading the Houston Rockets to a record of 65-17, which was the best record in the league and in franchise history. Harden's play was one of the reasons that the Rockets handled the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first-round of the playoffs, eliminating them in five games as well as the Utah Jazz in the second-round, also in five.
So, why is he not in the same conversation as LeBron James? They each put their respected franchise on their backs, so why is Harden's playoff play not being talked about?
Solid stats this postseason
During the playoffs, both Harden and James are averaging solid numbers:
Stats were used from NBA.com and are accurate as of May 9, 2018.
During his postseason run Harden has been tasked of guarding veteran Jimmy Butler and rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell, limiting the opponents best scoring options.
James has had to carry the bulk of Cleveland's load, averaging 41.1 minutes per game. The Indiana Pacers gave LeBron a scare, taking the series to seven games. Although it hasn't been easy, the Cavaliers swept the Raptors, punching their ticket to a fourth straight Eastern Conference finals appearance.
Looking at the rosters, each player has similar talent to work with. Many people might look at the Cleveland's roster and say they have more talent. That speaks to James' leadership but, it also speaks to Harden's. Harden acts like the point guard with the scoring ability of the shooting guard. He also has the ability to dominate games while getting each of his teammates involved. That is an asset that is instinctive and cannot be coached up.
Continuing to build their legacies
With both players advancing, they will each play the toughest teams they have faced yet. Harden will attempt to slay the dragon that is the Golden State Warriors while LeBron attempts to keep his seven consecutive NBA Finals appearance streak alive against the Boston Celtics.
If the Rockets can defeat the Warriors, it would elevate Harden and his legacy to another level. Golden State has represented the Western Conference in the Finals since 2015. Harden will be looking to get the best out of Stephen Curry and company after being on the losing end in 2015. A trip to the NBA Finals would solidify Harden's elite status and possibly elevate him over some of the NBA's best.
Who knows, LeBron James and James Harden could be heading for a collision course in the NBA Finals. It would be then that the NBA would find out which star got the best of the other.