Jun 17 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) dunks the ball past Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden (13) during the second half of game three in the 2012 NBA Finals at the American Airlines Arena. The Heat defeated the Thunder 91-85. Mandatory Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Dwyane Wade or James Harden, Who Is Better?

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade and Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant are in a bit of a, uh, dispute. You can read about it here.

The basics, if you were too lazy to click on the link, is that Durant thinks Harden is better than Wade and Wade is angry (or somewhat upset) because, well, the Heat kicked the tar out of the Thunder when they met in the Finals. Well, most of them met. Harden was somewhere recording an awful rap record or something… because he was definitely not playing.

Instead of getting involved, lets look at this analytically, who is better? Here are Harden and Wade’s 2013 stats per 36 minutes via Basketball-Reference.com.




Pretty much the same. Harden shot much better, and much more from beyond the arc. He also was an all-around better free throw shooter and averaged about another basket per 36. Wade had a slight edge in rebounding, steals and blocks. He was significantly better in not turning the ball over, though Harden was saddled with bringing the ball up far more often than Wade. Wade blows Harden away in field goal percentage.

But remember, Harden shot almost 5 more three’s per 36 minutes. Meaning his shots were more difficult. Using ESPN.com’s true shooting percentage numbers, which account for degree of difficulty in shots attempted and accounts for free throws and three-pointers attempted, Harden shot a TS% of .600 while Wade, who refused to shoot open threes, shot a TS% of .571.

Looking at each player’s efficiency rating, Wade had a PER of 24.04 and Harden’s PER was 23 flat.

Finally, both Wade and Harden were the All-NBA’s Third Team guards. I mean, this is really close.

We have analyzed mostly offensive numbers so far. Harden, without a doubt, is a more all-around offensive player than Wade.

Mar 27, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) dribbles against the Indiana Pacers in the first half at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports


But what about defense? Most people will tell you that Harden needs to improve on his consistency on defense. Wade? Well, remember Floor Space-gate? Head coach Erik Spoelstra kept Wade in the game, partly, because of his defense. Wade’s abilities to run a play down, recover position and make up for other teammates is among the best in the league.

Wade has been named to All-Defensive Second Team three times (’05, ’09, ’10). Harden? He never made any such team.

S.I. wrote this about Harden’s defense:

“Few can produce like Harden does at such quantity, and it’s on that basis that he’s knocking on the door of the top 10 at just 24 years old. That said: If he had any interest in playing committed defense, he’d already be on the other side of that threshold.”

S.I. wrote the following about Wade.

“He’s an essential piece of one of the league’s more unique breeds of coverage. Miami asks a lot of its wing players, if only because they’re capable. In Wade’s case, that translates to an inordinate amount of help relative to what you might see elsewhere around the league, much of which requires him to body up much bigger players in order to buy time or protect the rim. In that regard, Wade is a legitimate game-changer; his uncanny shot blocking ability makes him wholly unique among guards, while his physical profile empowers him to carry out the full mandates of Erik Spoelstra’s system.”

That bit on Wade gave him the edge over not just Harden, but also Kobe Bryant.

In big games, Wade has delivered. Harden’s debut mixtape has yet to be released. Wade has three rings. Harden has one beard. Wade is, without a doubt, one of the Top 5 guards to ever play in the NBA (Happy? Guy that commented a while ago and yelled at me for saying top six or seven?). Harden has a ton of potential, but we need to see more out of him.

Harden and Wade are extremely similar. I always said Harden reminds me of the Heat star. Just look at what S.I. had to say:

Playing for contact often comes at a price, and in [player's name] case the toll manifests as a few wasted possessions a night when he expects a whistle and hears none.

Who is he writing about? Could be either of them, right? It’s Harden. But those exact same words could have been written in 2006 about Wade.

Sports Illustrated ranked Wade at No. 8 and Harden at No. 11. So we aren’t talking about much of a difference. But still, Wade has to get the edge because of his defensive abilities and history of showing up in big moments.

Really, how many people who know basketball would take Harden over Wade for one big game. I’m not talking about people who play NBA 2K online. I’m talking about coaches, players and analysts. Who are they taking in a pickup game first? They are taking Wade. Period.

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Tags: Advanced Stats Dwyane Wade James Harden Miami Heat Stats

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