Fear the beards: Is James Harden the next Manu?

They say a comparison might be the sincerest form of flattery. 

If so, Manu Ginobili is only adding to his legend as one of the most notable players of his era.

ESPN.com’s David Thorpe makes a pretty convincing case that the collective grouping of Ginobili’s unique abilities makes him one of the best players in the league.

Here’s what Thorpe:

“In many respects, Ginobili is basketball’s version of what a “Moneyball” player looks like. He’s too skinny; he isn’t explosively athletic enough to be a classic shooting guard; and he doesn’t look like a prolific scorer. He also falls down a lot and plays awkwardly when compared to a classic guard.

“Most old-school scouts seek exactly the opposite from their 2-guards, a major reason why Ginobili was not drafted until the 57th selection in 1999. And that was after already proving to be one of the best young players in Europe and winning a title in the top Italian league. But as evidenced by his titles and his production, Ginobili is an analyst’s dream because his sum is so much better than his individual parts.”

Thorpe sees third-year Oklahoma City guard/forward James Harden as a similar player.

“Harden reminds many of Ginobili because of his average-looking athleticism that gives way to an occasional monster dunk that foreshadows his future if he tried to make athletic plays more often.

“Remember that as Harden enters his third NBA season, he is three years younger than Ginobili was as a rookie, so the Ginobili we’ve seen play with nuanced craft is far past his peak athletic years. Harden plays with tremendous poise and pace, and as he seasons, he could add more excitement to his game, the way Ginobili can be electric with the ball when his team needs him most.”

It’s a nice comparison for both players. And Thorpe has an interesting take on the unique skills of two key players for  two of the league’s best teams.

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