A few weeks ago, Dwight Howard talked about how the Rockets would be fine without Chandler Parsons and that they actually wouldn’t miss him at all. Among his many statements at that time, he said that Houston has the best center and the best shooting guard in the league. Both of which are highly debatable, if not ridiculous, statements. Now, following in his teammate’s larger footprints, James Harden has jumped on board, claiming that he’s the best basketball player alive.
Yes, you read that right. The best basketball player alive. And not only is he the best now, but he’s nowhere near his potential. These comments came from an interview with Scoop Jackson at ESPN.
Scoop: Bottom line, you are on this team and a lot of players aren’t, but in your mind, who is the best basketball player alive right now?
Scoop: That’s what I was about to say, “including you.” You made that sound like it was an easy answer.
Harden: It is. Myself.
Scoop: Then here’s the question: Are you where you want to be basketball-wise, even if you are the best?
Harden: Nowhere near close. I’ve got a long way to go, a lot of learning to do, improvements to make. Um, you know, as long as I’m listening and focused on the right things, I can reach my potential.
Scoop: So in your mind, you haven’t reached [your potential] yet?
Harden: Not even close.
I’m all for confidence as opposed to a player having uncertainty hold them back, but I’m also a big fan of being realistic and self-aware. The Rockets are currently showing that they might be the least self-aware franchise in the league and they’re taking this confidence beyond a point where it’s going to be able to provide any benefit for the team. When you have guys thinking they’re the best player since Michael Jordan, they start playing like they think they’re Michael Jordan. And no one can play like Mike.
There’s no way that Harden is aware of how dreadful he was on defense last season. It was like Harden and defense went through a terrible breakup, restraining order and all. His 2014 defensive rating of 107 was a full 7 points behind Jimmy Butler. I’m not going to say Butler is a better overall player than Harden, but it’s sure hard to justify the greatest player alive being that far behind a third-year player at the same position. Don’t get me wrong, Harden is a very good player. But he was 11th in player efficiency last year and only 7th in points scored. Solid numbers, but not in the discussion for best alive. Especially when you factor in the fact that he had the fifth most turnovers in the league.
First, they were confident that not nailing down Parsons for one more year was the right decision. Howard’s overconfidence came as no surprise, but considering Harden wasn’t even the second best player on his team until he left Oklahoma City, this one definitely does come as a surprise. Then again, there was no reason to think we wouldn’t be hearing from an overconfident James Harden soon enough. What’s next? Francisco Garcia calls a press conference to say he’ll win the MVP this year? With the way things are going on in Houston right now, I can’t say I’d be shocked.