Each year for the last six seasons, ESPN has ranked the top 200 players in the entire NBA. It’s quite an undertaking, so they can possibly be forgiven for a few missteps here and there. However, it appears at first glance they’ve made one, giant, glaring mistake, and that’s having James Harden ranked as their 8th-best player.
Harden’s ranking came out yesterday, and here’s what ESPN had to say about our beloved Beard:
“Over the past two seasons, Harden has effectively served as the Rockets' point guard, handling the ball more than any non-point guard (6.3 minutes per game last season, per SportVU tracking on NBA.com/Stats). So Houston has decided to embrace that. While Harden will certainly play with a nominal point guard at times, the addition of Eric Gordon means regular minutes as the only true ball handler on the court.”
The number 8 ranking actually represents a two-place drop from the number 6 that Harden appeared at last year, as the Beard obviously continues to be judged by last season’s team failures despite his individual historic 29-7-6 stat line in the 2016 season.
Interestingly enough, Anthony Davis is ranked at number 6, despite only leading his squad to the playoffs a single time in his NBA career, which resulted in an unceremonious first-round sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in the 2015 season. I don’t think I need to remind anyone that the Rockets have made the playoffs in every season Harden has been in H-town, which includes an appearance in the Western Conference Finals in that same 2015 year.
And Davis is admittedly off to a scorching start so far this year, averaging 31.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and 2.1 steals through the Pelicans first 9 games, but consequently, Harden has been perhaps the single best player in the league to this early point in the season.
The Beard is sporting averages of 30.6 points, 13 assists, 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals, while shooting 49.7 percent as the team’s point guard. His turnovers are high, but so is his usage, and keep in mind that he’s currently tied with Russell Westbrook as the NBA turnover leader. And I don’t expect to see that held against Russ, whose usage is equally as high.
Harden is the first player since Michael Jordan in 1989 to have four consecutive 30-plus point and 10-plus assists games in a row and the first since Magic Johnson in 1986 to have back-to-back games of 30-plus points and 15-plus assists.
Perhaps even more important, Harden’s Rockets are off to a 5-3 start and are the current leaders of the Southwest Division. Davis’ Pelicans? They’re 1-8, the worst team in the entire Western Conference and have the second-worst record in the whole NBA.
It’s just another reminder of the prevalent Beard bias still in the Association, though Harden has started seeing his share of positive press after his ridiculous start. Keep up his current level of play, and the haters will have no choice but to recognize and we’ll see his ESPN rank rise to where it belongs in next year’s top 5.
What say you, Rockets fans, about Harden’s ESPN ranking this year? Too low? Too high? Or just right? Tell us in the comments below.