James Harden does not lack for swagger. His confidence, like his beard, may be unparalleled in the NBA.
As everyone expected, Harden is putting up ridiculous numbers as the point guard in Mike D’Antoni’s offense — 31.6 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 66.5 percent (which is incredibly efficient, and he is hitting 41 percent from three), 12.7 assists per game, 7.1 rebounds a game, and he has had four games in a row where he dropped at least 30 and 10 (first guys since Jordan to do that).
All of that a cycle feeding his confidence. How good does Harden feel? Check out this exchange from a great bit of writing by Michael Lee of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
Now that Harden is setting up teammates better than anyone else and currently leads the league in assists, who is the league’s best player at his position?
“Best point guard or best player?” Harden responded when asked.
“I am,” Harden told The Vertical.
Let’s get the two obvious things out of the way up top. First, what did you expect him to say? I don’t have a problem with Harden thinking he’s the best point guard and player in the NBA, that swagger is part of what allows him special on the court. Second, if you put defense into the equation then no, Harden is not the best point guard in the NBA. You can debate among yourselves where he fits in the Stephen Curry/Russell Westbrook/Chris Paul hierarchy, but also know that he belongs in the discussion of the best ones in the game.
Harden and D’Antoni are perfect for each other, and Harden’s skills are going to be spotlighted all season long (they put shooting around him that is helping with space and pace). He could be the first player since Nate “Tiny” Archibald to averaged 30 points and 10 assists per game for a season. And if that happens, the Rockets almost certainly land in the playoffs. All of that puts Harden in the MVP conversation.
But the very best players in the game prove themselves in the playoffs, and both Harden and D’Antoni will have work to do with these Rockets to take big steps on that stage.