Skip to main content

James Harden - A Classic Case of Misunderstood Value

The last time I wrote on hoops was December 2013 when I presciently trashed Carmelo Anthony. The time has come to take out my poison pen once again to decry James Harden as a fraud. I know that Harden has amazing stats - third in scoring, first in assists, and that his team the Rockets have far exceeded expectations as they are currently the 3rd seed out west. But, I still maintain that he is an awful player.


Since joining the Rockets and becoming a lead dog in the NBA, Harden’s game has changed. His breakout success has largely been a result of what I would call “ugly ball.” He is a master at creating contact and misleading the referees into calling the foul on his defender, who often hasn't even moved let alone initiated contact. Harden is especially adept at literally flinging the ball towards the basket when creating this contact, earning himself the two free throws that come when one is fouled in the act of shooting. The thing is, he wasn't fouled and he wasn't shooting. Many of his points scored are either a direct result of this phenomenon and come in the form of free throws, of which he takes far more than any other NBA player, or an indirect one, wherein defenders are forced to play far off the ball to avoid his shenanigans, leaving him open for long range shots, which any NBA player could make when given the space.

One would be mistaken to call Harden the NBA’s worst defender, because labeling him that would imply that he plays defense. He doesn't. He is the ultimate practitioner of the "matador” style of defense, standing aside and allowing the bull, or in this case the opposing offensive player to pass without making any effort to stop him at all. All that’s missing is the matador cape, which if he would incorporate into his repertoire would make him far more entertaining.

In sum, James Harden is an awful basketball player, a guy whose team will never win a championship, and a terrible entertainer who plays a repulsive brand of basketball. Yet if you listen to the NBA’s shill announcers, Charles Barkley excepted, you would think he is the second coming of Oscar Robertson.

As an investment professional, I see this concept of misperceived value play out often. Pundits, brokers, media, traders get the momentum going and then reality is suspended - temporarily - as the herd piles into the trade. No one ever knows when it will end, but it never ends pretty. Ask Carmelo.

Popular posts from this blog

Change is Coming

I sense the winds of change beginning to gather strength and I anticipate that the coming decade will bring with it a new economic reality and, importantly, a new way of thinking about wealth and the valuing of material success. I can vaguely recall the 1960’s and 1970’s when the disparity between wealthy and average seemed to be much less obvious. That was a time when even the wealthiest went out of their way to blend in. It was a time when public displays of wealth were frowned upon and when Jesus’ teachings about how difficult it would be for the wealthy to enter heaven (like a camel passing through the eye of a needle) was broadly taught. It was a time largely without private planes, multiple second homes, and massive mansions. It was a time with far less societal envy and much lower levels of indebtedness. It was a time when working-class people could afford to live decently. I grew up in just such a home, and while we had no luxuries at all we enjoyed a very nice life.

The Appeal of Socialism Examined

The political system that we all label “Socialism,” which I might define as one in which government displaces much of the private sector in providing for its citizens (healthcare, education, banking, resources, etc.) and controls the pricing for whatever is left to the private sector to administer, has never once succeeded in its stated objective of equitable distribution of resources and opportunities. In fact, it has always exacerbated the divide between rich and poor and has always led to depressing poverty for the masses. At the same time, free-market capitalism has raised the level of quality of life for most people, and in almost every single instance. And yet today, in the U.S. and elsewhere, we find that large segments of society favor socialism and distrust capitalism. And this is true even as our hemispheric neighbor Venezuela has experienced a complete collapse thanks to the 20-year pursuit of a socialist agenda. It begs the question of how this could be? Does anyone want t…

Faith: The Lesson of Passover

When most people think of Passover they think of a story of liberation. Indeed, this is a central part of the story, as the Jewish slaves in Egypt were freed through a series of unimaginable miracles.