Can the Rockets Win the NBA Finals with James Harden?

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Can James Harden ever lead the Rockets to an NBA title? We'll find out eventually.

The Houston Rockets have been close to making the NBA Finals in the 21st century, but they have fallen short multiple times over the last couple of seasons. No matter how hard they try, it seems like James Harden and company don’t have enough to win a seven-game series against the West’s top competition.

Harden recently spoke about wanting to bring another championship to the city of Houston. Let’s analyze his comments while answering the question: “Can the Rockets win it all with James Harden?”

James Harden’s desire to win a championship

In a recent interview, Harden had this to say about winning a title:

“I still haven’t accomplished half of what I want to accomplish. Like, multiple championships. I want to be one of those basketball players that you won’t forget. And obviously, we all remember the Kobes and the Jordans and the D-Wades and all those guys. I want to be in that same conversation, obviously, in championships and all that good stuff, and best shooting guards to ever play the game…Of course [a championship] matters to me.”

“I’ve been thinking about it maybe the last year-and-a-half, two years. I’m on the right path. You can’t rush winning a title…The time is going to happen when the time happens.”

Talking about winning a championship is all well and good, but you have to produce in the playoffs. That’s not Houston’s recent M.O. We have seen the Rockets flounder the last couple of seasons during a presumed deep playoff run.

Playoff woes for Harden and the Rockets

You can really say Houston’s choking in the playoffs started against the Spurs in Game 5 of 2017 Western Conference semifinals. Manu Ginobili  blocked James Harden’s game-winning shot attempt in overtime, and the Spurs closed out the series in six, after a poor Game 6 by Harden.

The following season, the Rockets had an excellent opportunity to finish off the Golden State Warriors, taking them to seven games in an effort to reach the NBA Finals. However, the team missed an NBA record 27 3-point attempts in a row, and Golden State won the game, the series, and the title.

It was more of the same this past season, as the Rockets and Warriors clashed again. This time, Golden State did not have Kevin Durant, who was nursing a quad injury. Once again, Houston couldn’t get the job done and had to restructure the team after a failed playoff push.

Teaming with Russell Westbrook

Can James Harden ever lead the Rockets to an NBA title? We'll find out eventually.
Rockets’ guard James Harden. | Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

After a scathing report came out about James Harden’s relationship with Chris Paul, the Rockets traded Paul to Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook. Harden and Westbrook were teammates in OKC, and having two MVPs in the backcourt could make Houston a top team in the West in 2019-20. It will be exciting to see how Westbrook and Harden continue their chemistry on the court, as the two are best friends off it.

Will the Rockets ever win with James Harden?

Even with Kevin Durant’s departure and Klay Thompson’s torn ACL, the Warriors would still be a favorite on paper against the Rockets. The Lakers and Clippers both improved as they acquired superstars this offseason, and we haven’t even mentioned the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets, the No. 3 and No. 2 seeds, respectively, in last year’s Western Conference playoffs. 

We think Houston’s window of opportunity closed in 2018, and even with the addition of Westbrook don’t expect anything more than a second-round exit for the Rockets. There’s no doubt James Harden is a superstar, but history shows us that, for whatever reason, he and the Rockets can’t get it done in the postseason.