Sports Illustrated ranked James Harden of the Houston Rockets, the league’s reigning MVP, as the fourth best player in the NBA.
For the sixth year in a row, Sports Illustrated’s analysts put together a list of basketball’s top 100 players.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant headlined the list as the two best players in basketball. No surprises there. Houston’s own Chris Paul was listed as the eighth best player in the league, finishing behind Russell Westbrook and ahead of Joel Embiid.
James Harden, the NBA’s reigning MVP, was listed at No. 4 on this year’s list. Here is Sports Illustrated’s explanation for ranking him behind James, Durant and Stephen Curry, who finished in the third spot:
“LeBron James has a higher basketball IQ and displays greater consistency in the playoffs than Harden, Durant is a more complete two-way player, and Curry is one of the few stars in league history whose individual offense can translate to more efficient team play. Those three aside, Harden has fashioned himself into basketball’s most dangerous weapon.”
Not only did Harden win MVP while leading the NBA in scoring, 3-pointers made and free throws made, but he also helped lead the Rockets to a franchise record 65 wins. The Rockets blew past Minnesota and Utah in the postseason and advanced to the conference finals. Unfortunately, Chris Paul’s Game 5 injury all but erased Houston’s championship hopes after going up 3-2 against the Warriors.
Harden’s impressive resume from last season makes it impossible to rank him outside of the top four. There’s no doubt that LeBron and Durant are the two best players in the world, as they have proven over the last six seasons, but Harden and Curry are very close.
Neither The Beard or Chef Curry are known for their defense. Although, they’re both so gifted on offense that they can get away with not being lockdown defenders.
While both are elite outside shooters, Curry is widely recognized as the best shooter ever. Both players are great at finishing around the rim, but Harden gets the advantage in the paint due to his uncanny ability to draw fouls along with his superior strength that allows him to finish through contact. Harden also gets the nod in rebounding and passing, especially since he has finished in the top three in assists per game in the last two seasons.
SI placed Curry ahead of Harden mainly due to the fact that Golden State is 244-45 with Curry on the court during the Steve Kerr era and because the Golden State’s offense is nearly unstoppable with Curry on the floor. However, Houston’s offense is just as potent with Harden running the show, but they haven’t had the same sustained success as Golden State nor has Harden’s team won the last two titles. Of course, if Harden had Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on his team, then it would be a different story.
If we’re just talking about individual talent, James Harden has proven that he’s a top three player in the world. But SI’s analysts gave Curry the nod due to his offensive efficiency and Golden State’s team success. It was a good list, but maybe they could consider switching the third and fourth spots.