David J. Phillip/Associated Press
Better luck next year, James Harden.
In a performance reminiscent of the meltdown seen in the 2012 NBA Finals, the shooting guard saw his Houston Rockets drop out of the postseason in the first round for the second straight season. Even after reloading with Dwight Howard, Harden and his team couldn't get it done, and his status as a star player is slowly eroding.
That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but his performance during these playoffs and past serve as evidence.
Against the Portland Trail Blazers, Harden still put up his usual high-scoring average of 26.8 points but shot just 37.6 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from three-point range. The defense of the Blazers absolutely deserves credit, especially the work of guard Wesley Matthews.
But even considering that, Harden seemed disjointed and disinterested, especially defensively. The Rockets allowed 112.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, compared to 107.1 when he was on the bench.
Harden shot above 45 percent just once, and only truly looked engaged when he went for 34 points in the pivotal Game 6 (9-of-15 shooting).
Even going back to last season's playoffs, where he averaged 26.3 points on 39.1 percent shooting, which isn't much different from this year, Harden will have a lot to prove going forward.
Houston had high hopes for this team, pairing Harden and Howard together to make a deep playoff run. Howard did his part, dropping 26 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks down low, but Harden wasn't there to consistently provide that perimeter threat on either end of the floor.
Considering the star status Harden holds as an All-Star guard in the NBA, it was disappointing to see his play drop to such a level when it was needed most. The blame of an early postseason exit doesn't fall solely on his shoulders, but his lack of efficiency had something to do with it.
Harden almost netted the top spot, but his play wasn't as bad as the next guy on our list. Can you guess who?