Once in every 10, maybe 20 years does a player come to the NBA and just flat out dominate every player. If there were a Mount Rushmore of the best NBA players of all time, it is easy to fill up three spots.
You have to include the man with the most NBA titles, Bill Russell; arguably the best all-around player ever, Lebron James; and the best ever, Michael Jordan. But the last spot is the most hotly debated.
Some say it should be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has the most points scored in NBA history, or Oscar Robertson, the man who averaged a Triple-Double during the 1961-62 season. However, this debate shouldn’t exist, as that last spot belongs to one of the most prolific players ever.
His name is James Harden, and he is the best player in the NBA, and maybe ever.
He is what his Adidas commercial says, a creator.
But his creativity goes beyond just creating shots. Sure he can score, after all he’s averaged over 27 points per game since he got to Houston. He does average over 11 assists and now has 13 triple doubles (and counting).
However he isn’t a stat stuffer like some of the other stars in the league. Harden plays the game to win, and he does so by creating whatever is necessary to win.
You need 40 points in 3 consecutive games in the playoffs? He’ll do it. You have a center with a favorable mismatch over his opponent? James will get him the ball at will. You need to win the game? Put him in.
Even though he doesn’t focus on his own stats, he still posts out-of-this-world numbers. Last year, he became the only player ever to average 29+ points, 7+ assists, 7+ rebounds, and 2+ steals. In fact, without his superb play last year, the Houston Rockets, who had an even 41 wins and 41 losses, were predicted to have only 28 wins without Harden by Basketball-Reference’s power index. His 13.3 wins above replacement was the largest in NBA history, with the next highest being from Michael Jordan in 1997, with 11.8.
On top of that, he became the first player ever to score 50 points, and have 15+ assists and rebounds in a game this year in a game against the New York Knicks, who ranked 7th in the league at the time in total defensive efficiency. The last, and most impressive part of his game is how he sees the floor. Until now, I’ve just glossed over the fact he averages nearly double-digit assists, but that part of his game is what makes him so great.
Even with the mediocre team around him, he still finds a way to distribute the ball to guys in scoring positions. James Harden creates an assist on 4.8 percent of his passes, which is the highest average since John Stockton, who has the most assists in NBA history.
When James Harden has the ball in his hands, he is the most dangerous man in NBA history.