LeBron James and Kevin Durant. These are probably the two best players in the NBA at the moment. There is a good chance that almost everyone reading this and most NBA fans agree with this statement. It’s nice to compare players who are playing in the league at the same time as one another and much, much healthier than the stupid debates we always get into about who was better, LeBron or Michael Jordan. At least we can objectively compare LeBron and Durant given they are both on our televisions at least twice a week. More if you have NBA league pass (or, if like some of my facebook friends, you managed to get somebody’s league pass password – BY THE WAY…why on earth would you pay all that money and just give your league pass password to somebody else?).
The question of the next best player, the third best playing in the league today, is a little less obvious. If you want to sit wherever you are and tell me you think Paul George is the third best player in the league, I will listen to your arguments. If you want to regale me with the merits of Chris Paul, I will listen. I’d give you some time to talk about Derrick “when he’s healthy” Rose. If you want to talk about any other player, I will tell you that you are wrong. Unless that player is the guy who I think is the third best player in the NBA at the moment: James Harden.
James Edward Harden, junior is twenty-four years old. He has the best beard this side of Al-Qaeda. He is a 6’5″ left-handed shooting guard, with springs in his heels and the ability to finish around the rim like few others in the league. He draws more fouls than anybody else and consequently shoots more free throws. When he’s at the line he hits 84%. Last season he had career highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game as he proved, decisively, that he could lead a team – and not just any team, a team where the second best player was either rookie Chandler Parsons or maybe Jeremy Lin – after three years as the third fiddle in the OKC Thunder lineup. Third fiddle might even be generous given he only ever started seven games in his three years in Oklahoma.
True, he was not great in his final few games for the Thunder. True, those games happened to be the NBA finals. However, to emphasise this is to ignore that he gave the Thunder 16.3PPG in the playoffs, a playoff career high and only half a point lower than his season’s average. He also upped his steals and rebounds in the 2012 playoffs.
Harden is currently fifth in the NBA in points per game – behind Durant, Carmelo, Kevin Love and LeBron. He’s better away from home than at the Toyota Center, shooting a higher percentage even though he competes in the much tougher Western Conference (an understatement – have you seen the records of the teams in the East this season?)
Oh, also, the NBA General Managers said that they thought he was a better Shooting Guard than anyone else in the league. Or at least 57% of them did. Only 20% picked Kobe. Of course, 80% of them thought Victor Oladipo would be rookie of the year.
Of course most of us form our opinions on sports men and women based on the “eye” test – actually watching them. So I encourage you to tune in to a few Houston Rockets games. Watch the third best player in the league in action.