Luka Dončić has been an All-NBA level player since coming into the league in 2018. His ability to run the Mavericks as a successful playoffs team as the number one star is like none other. With this recent playoffs failure against the Warriors, it really seems like this isolation-style basketball won’t work. Is Luka a lone star that can carry his team to an eventual championship or will he fall short year in and year out like James Harden?
Is Luka Dončić James Harden 2.0?
Luka has had great playoff success this season against both the Jazz and the Suns. His ability to attack one-on-one matchups this year against great defenders, most notably Mikal Bridges, has been impressive. Harden was a similar player in his prime as his ability to score made him an MVP-caliber player. They both also shine in their playmaking abilities with Harden averaging 7.7 assists per game with Houston and Luka with 8. They’re also both amazing scorers as Harden averaged over 25 every year in his time in Houston, while Luka averaged over 25 after his rookie year.
Both have also seen similar playoff success so far. Luka lost in the first round twice before eventually making the conference finals this year. Harden also lost in the first round his first two years in Houston before making the conference finals. Both have had little help as Luka has played with zero All-Stars on his team, and Harden only had one in an aging Dwight Howard in his first three years.
Luka and Harden also have some of the highest usage in the league. Harden averaged a 33.1% usage rate in Houston while Luka averages 35%. They’ve also both been scrutinized as being out of shape which makes the usage rate even harder for them. Neither has insane athleticism but both have elite scoring. Harden has a skill of step-backs and foul drawing that makes his scoring and playmaking come naturally. Luka uses his elite playmaking and fundamentals to make his scoring come naturally.
Harden has been labeled as a notorious playoff choker. His stats significantly drop in the playoffs as fatigue eventually gets to him. Luka has not experienced this as he has had multiple seven-game series’ where his stats aren’t affected. Harden also has shown struggles in the half-court offense. Luka tends to thrive in the half-court offense as his playmaking increases with the full use of the shot clock.
Luka is a lot younger than Harden was when he started playing for Houston. Harden joined Houston three years after being in the league. Three years into Luka’s career and he’s in MVP conversations. Luka is also a better playmaker on the perimeter whereas Harden would look for lob threats as his main form of playmaking.
Does Luka = Harden 2.0?
Harden almost made the finals against the Warriors but was held back by injury. He fought against that dynasty year after year but could never climb that mountain. Ironically, Luka lost this year against the Warriors. Luckily for Luka, there is no sign of a dynasty being formed out west that he will have to compete with. Luka still has many years to compete, but it gets harder and harder the more money he makes on his future contracts. If Dallas hopes to eventually compete with Luka they have to do a better job of surrounding him with talent than Houston.
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