James Harden was a really good player during his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he wasn’t the best. The last 10 NBA scoring leaders are pretty close to James in terms of overall point production for their careers and yet they don’t come near him as far as efficiency is concerned.
The issue here isn’t that James doesn’t score enough points or has bad defense–the issue is one of volume.
James Harden has been on a different level this season. He is averaging 30 points per game and was the first player in NBA history to average over 30 points per game, while also leading his team to the best record in the league. Read more in detail here: who has the most scoring titles in nba history.
Championships are won on defense, but it’s difficult to win if you don’t score. And, more importantly, if you don’t have one of the top bucket takers in the league when the playoffs get tough, you’re doomed.
The league’s best scorers put butts in the seats and then get fans up and dancing with their offensive prowess. NBA superstars who flush the basket with an explosive dunk, break down a defender with a fantastic crossover, or go Stephen Curry on the other team by sinking a disputed 40-footer are among our favorites to watch.
The NBA has given us some of the top scorers in league history during the past 10 seasons. Between 2011 and 2021, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Stephen Curry dominated their contemporaries, winning virtually all of the scoring championships.
We’ll look at the top 10 scorers in the NBA during the previous ten seasons.
NBA Season 2011-2012
Kevin Durant averages 28.0 points per contest.
Habit of Shooting Hoops
Kevin Durant earned his third scoring championship in 2011-12, beating out Kobe Bryant by 0.1 points per game. During KD’s fifth season, his improved inside-out game stunned the NBA.
KD was rail-thin during his first four years in the NBA, but by the 2011-12 season, his effort in the gym had paid off, and he had added a little of strength to his frame, which helped him destroy the opposition in the lane. Kevin Durant used his blow-by speed, long-stepped crossover moves, and a variety of spin attacks to consistently push opposing defenders, finishing the year with a league-high 431 made free throws.
During the previous season’s playoffs, the Thunder were beaten by the Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals, rubbing Durant raw. He didn’t mope around, however. He went to the lab during the summer to work on his long-distance jumper. He came into the 2011-12 season blazing hot from beyond the arc, and he continued to connect at a high rate throughout the year, finishing with a 38.7% hit rate from beyond the arc and a 48.3% mark from 16 feet to the three-point line.
The Thunder finished the 2011-12 season with the second-best record in the Western Conference, three games behind the Spurs. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and the rest of the Thunder finished the season with the second-best record in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant went on to lead Oklahoma City to the NBA finals in the playoffs, proving that he wasn’t just a regular season chucker who couldn’t get it done when it counted. During the NBA’s second season, KD averaged 28.5 points per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. Durant and the Thunder were eliminated in the second round by the more experienced Miami Heat, but he gave the NBA notice that he was coming.
NBA Season 2012-13
Carmelo Anthony averages 28.7 points per contest.
Carmelo Anthony wrested the NBA scoring championship from Kevin Durant, who finished second with 28.1 points per game, during the 2012-13 season. Anthony’s 2012-13 Knicks team included a crippled Amar’e Stoudemire, who only played 29 games, J. R. Smith at shooting guard, and Raymond Felton at point guard. Because New York lacked a complimentary All-Star to complement Anthony, he took it upon himself to do the heavy lifting on offense, completing the season with the league’s highest usage rate.
Throughout the 2012-13 season, Carmelo Anthony employed his trademark shooting style to attack the rim. He made around 70% of his shots from beyond the lane, combining his smooth mid-range fadeaway jumper with a fair dosage of pump fakes and a great three-point stroke to put up scores. Melo concluded the season shooting 37.9% from three-point range on 6.2 tries per game and 44.1 percent from 16 feet to the arc, making him one of the league’s greatest long-range shooters.
Carmelo Anthony assisted in getting the Knicks into the 2013 playoffs, where they advanced to the second round before losing to a talented Indiana Pacers team.
NBA Season 2013-14
Kevin Durant averages 32.0 points per contest.
Kevin Durant was at the pinnacle of his powers in 2013-14. KD put up one of the finest offensive displays the NBA has ever seen during his seventh season in the league.
Here’s how it works:
Offensive Win Shares: 14.8 (1st in the NBA)
Plus/Minus 8.8 Offensive Box (1st in the NBA)
Player with a 9.6 Value Over Replacement (1st in the NBA)
Player Efficiency Rating: 29.8 (1st in the NBA)
Usage Rate: 33.0 (1st in the NBA)
Throughout the 2013-14 season, KD poured gasoline on the league and set it ablaze. He was a long-armed threat with some of the greatest footwork east of Kobe Bryant, completing 79.8% of his shots from 0 to 3 feet. Opposing defenders had the option of fouling him in the lane or watching him drop two in the hoop.
He also demonstrated a more sophisticated back-to-the-basket game, such as employing a smooth turnaround fadeaway jumper to get easy J’s or leaning into his guy, seeking for contact before quick-spinning around him for a leisurely stroll into the lane.
KD led the Oklahoma City Thunder win the Northwest Division with a 59-23 record before falling in the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
NBA Season 2014-15
Russell Westbrook averages 28.1 points per game.
With a nagging right foot problem, Westbrook’s teammate Kevin Durant only played in 27 games during the 2014-15 season. It was Brodie’s moment to shine now that KD was out.
Russell Westbrook used his tremendous athleticism to assault the hoop, pursuing a hobbling chicken like a wolf. He was tied for third in the league in drives per game, averaging 15.0 a game and completing a respectable 43.0 percent of his tries. He also utilized his fast first step to separate himself from his opponent, letting him to shoot unobstructed mid-range jumpers.
Russell Westbrook was the Thunder’s most important player in 2014-15. With KD out, he was their only playmaker, absorbing virtually all of the other team’s defensive attention. He averaged 9.8 fouls per game, 8.6 assists per game, and a 120 percent offensive rating.
Brodie was a key part of Oklahoma City’s 45-37 season, which saw them finish ninth in an exceptionally competitive Western Conference and miss the playoffs.
NBA Season 2015-16
Curry averages 30.1 points per game.
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports/Kelly L Cox/USA TODAY Sports/Kelly L Cox/USA
Stephen Curry earned the MVP Award unanimously in 2015-16, becoming just the second player in NBA history to score over 30 points per game with a true shooting % north of.650.
Steph’s figures were incredible:
His Player Efficiency Rating of 31.5 was the eighth best of all time.
He became the ninth player to shoot 50.4 percent from the field, 45.4 percent from beyond the arc, and 90.8 percent from the free throw line.
From 30 to 34 feet, he hit 57.7% of the time on 26 tries (the 3-point line is 22 feet in the corners and 23 feet from the top)
He guided the Warriors to their best-ever record of 73-9.
In 2015-16, Stephen Curry set a new record for the NBA. His long-distance shooting stroke was a mystery that rival coaches couldn’t solve.
What is the best way to stop a guy who cannot be double-teamed? You don’t have it.
The league’s 29 other teams eventually found out how to slow Curry down, but he was the scoring champion and the finest offensive player since Michael Jordan in the 2015-16 season.
NBA Season 2016-17
Russell Westbrook averages 31.6 points per contest.
Thunderous Intentions is responsible for this image.
Russell Westbrook was left without a companion in 2016-17 when Kevin Durant went to Golden State. Victor Oladipo and Enes Freedom were Brodie’s greatest teammates, so he went full wrecking ball/destructor on the rim.
Westbrook topped the NBA in drives per game with 20.1 per game, completing 44.4 percent of his attempts with full defensive attention on him. With the quickest initial stride in the league, a strong crossover, and a nice little change of pace skip to throw defenders off before blowing past them, he blitzed the focused defensive aggression he encountered weekly. He also led the league in transition possessions, averaging 6.8 a game of sheer athletic mayhem that was nearly difficult to contain, especially when he grabbed the defensive rebound and went off like a jet.
Russell Westbrook’s 2021-22 season with the Lakers has been a disaster, turning his story into an unpleasant, stinky stew. Whatever you think of Brodie, you have to acknowledge he was a true star in 2016-17.
Look at his figures:
Player Efficiency Rating: 30.6 (1st in the NBA)
57.3 Percentage of Assists (1st in the NBA)
41.7 Percentage of Users (1st in the NBA)
Plus/Minus 8.7 Offensive Box (1st in the NBA)
Player with a 9.3 Value Over Replacement (1st in the NBA)
Russell Westbrook averaged 31.6 points per game and led the Thunder into the playoffs, but they were defeated in the first round by a deep Houston Rockets club.
NBA Season 2017-18
30.4 points per game for James Harden
(Image courtesy of Space City Scoop)
James Harden started his three-year streak of scoring championships by averaging 30.4 points per game for the Houston Rockets during the 2017-18 season. Harden embraced the Rockets’ data-driven ethos of never taking a mid-range jumper. He made more than half of his shots from beyond the arc, connecting on 36.8% of his tries.
Harden, on the other hand, tallied up the points thanks to his isolation skills. With 10.0 one-on-one opportunities per game, the Beard led the league in scoring at 1.22 points per possession, putting him in the 95th percentile in the NBA. With one of the finest stop/start moves in the game, a devastating pump fake from beyond the arc, and the way he drove boldly into contact, Harden proved virtually hard to stop in isolation. Defenders were forced to choose between fouling him or waiting for aid.
In 2017-18, James Harden contributed to the Rockets’ 65-17 record, which was good enough for first place in the Western Conference. In the second round of the playoffs, they took the Warriors to seven games, but fell to a stronger Golden State squad that went on to win the championship.
NBA Season 2018-19
36.8 points per game for James Harden
(Image courtesy of Essentially Sports)
James Harden exploded over the league in a flaming ball of charity stripe trips and long bombs during the 2018-19 season. With 378 made three-pointers on 1,028 attempts, the Beard led the NBA in that category. He also led the league in made free throws (692), as well as trips to the free throw line (800).
We’ll toss some more numbers your way while we’re at it: In terms of USG percent (40.5), OWS (11.4), OBPM (9.4), VORP (9.3), drives per game (19.6), and isolation possessions per game, James Harden lead the NBA (16.4).
You read that correctly: James Harden averaged 16.4 isolation possessions per game in 2018-19, more than treble the 5.6 iso attempts per game recorded by second-placed John Wall.
James Harden put up one of the best offensive performances we’ve ever seen (nearly 37 points per game with a 54.1 effective field goal percentage!!!!) while simultaneously boring every NBA fan outside of Houston with the way he pounded the ball the entire shot clock before drawing a wacky, arm-flailing foul. Harden’s exploits in 2018-19 paved the way for this season’s rule amendments, which restrict offensive players’ ability to instigate “non-basketball” contact.
In the end, James Harden lead the Rockets to the 4th best record in the Western Conference before falling in the second round of the playoffs to their adversary, the Golden State Warriors.
NBA Season 2019-20
34.3 points per game for James Harden
(via Habit of Shooting Hoops)
James Harden completed a three-peat as the NBA’s leading scorer, averaging 34.3 points per game. The Houston Rockets’ 2019-20 edition included Harden and Russell Westbrook in the backcourt, making a previous MVP combo that proved to be one of the league’s most interesting pairings in the past decade.
Harden and Westbrook never appeared to gel as a team, preferring instead to take turns running the offense while the other stood in the corner watching. Harden concluded the season with 14.1 still-impossible-to-stop-isolation-possessions, while Westbrook finished second with 7.4 less efficient isolation attempts. Drives per game, usage rate, and transition baskets all ranked in the top ten for both players.
The Harden/Westbrook pairing did not pan out. In the playoffs, the Rockets were trampled over by the larger Lakers, falling in the second round for the third year in a row.
During his three seasons as the league’s leading scorer, James Harden never made it far in the playoffs, and his ball-stopping, foul-drawing style of basketball turned off many fans. Even still, you might argue that his three seasons from 2017 to 2020 were among the finest offensive displays we’ve ever seen. The Beard is a great facilitator who manages to be both selfish and selfless at the same time. He’s a beast in the lane and possesses a delicate outside touch.
NBA Season 2020-21
32.0 points per game for Stephen Curry
Last season in Northern California, Stephen Curry was back to his old antics, averaging 32.0 points per game in his age 32 season (Get it? 32 points/32-years-old) like he was playing horse with a few high school mates in the park.
Curry took a weakened Warriors team into the play-in round without Klay Thompson, a too-young Jordan Poole, and a not-yet-ready Andrew Wiggins before the Lakers and Grizzlies booted them out of the regular season. We can’t disregard Steph’s heroics, however, since nothing in the NBA is more tough than leading your team to a winning record on your own, as Curry did in 2020-21, guiding Golden State to a 39-33 record.
With Brad Pitt-at-the-shopping-mall attention every night, Curry lead the league in total three-pointers made. He concluded the season with a stunning 60.5 effective field goal percentage, almost reaching the 50-40-90 clubhouse again, hitting on 42.1 percent of his long shots and 91.6 percent of his free throws, but missing out with a 48.2 field goal percentage.
Last year, Curry did not earn the MVP award. Nonetheless, in my opinion, it was his greatest season. Every night, the whole league was focused on him as he guided his starless club to win after triumph. He was truly amazing!!!!
NBA Season 2021-2022
Even though the 2021-22 season isn’t over yet, Joel Embiid is in the driver’s seat for scoring champion with a 29.5 weekly average. He combines the finest post movement in the league with a deep stroke that is better than promised.
Embiid’s nightly point production isn’t for nothing. With a 40-24 record, he has the 76ers in second place in the Eastern Conference. This season, Embiid and his shot-making skills offer Philadelphia a serious chance to win the title.
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James Harden is the NBA’s scoring leader, but it’s not because of his number of assists. He has won two titles in a row and has been on different level since he was traded to Houston Rockets. Reference: how many assist titles does james harden have.
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