James Harden was named to the All-NBA First Team today, joining Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol for the honor.
Harden is the second-youngest member of that team at 25 years old, ahead of only Anthony Davis. He's now made three-straight All-Star teams, two straight All-NBA first teams, finished in second place in MVP voting and has led his team to the Western Conference semifinals, all before his 26th birthday (which is Aug. 26, so mark your calendars).
Harden has the beginnings of a Hall of Fame career. He averaged 27-7-6 this year while leading the NBA in minutes, points and free throws. He's taken a step up defensively and lifted the Rockets in a historic Game 7 win in the semifinals.
Where does Harden sit in the power structure in the NBA right now? I still can't bring myself to say he's better than LeBron, just like I couldn't say that for Kevin Durant last year, despite the MVP voting. Maybe Durant comes back from his foot injuries and he's better than Harden. Maybe Davis is already better than Harden, but considering his supporting cast and the Rockets' it's hard to make that argument this year.
Harden is one of the Top 5 players in the NBA, period. It's LeBron, Curry, Harden, Davis and Durant/Paul, with Westbrook lurking on the outside, at this point. Blake Griffin might be No. 8 after these playoffs, Kawhi Leonard might be No. 9 and a healthy Dwight Howard might be No. 10. These debates are fun and endless.
But there is no debate: anyone, in any era, who can rightfully claim to be one of the five best players in the NBA at any given time is a Hall-of-Famer. Harden is just 25. We shouldn't canonize him yet, but the Beard should bring us more hardware for a long time.