That’s what James Harden answered when asked who’s the best basketball player alive (in an interview with ESPN’s Scoop Jackson). While Harden possesses undeniable offensive skill, he is criticized for having serious defensive issues, making this proposition almost impossible to agree with. Despite this, however, many people feel he could be a key contributor on the defending FIBA World Champions, Team USA.
As mentioned above, Harden’s offensive skills are at a higher level that any other shooting guard on the roster, and his play on the Rockets this past season could suggest a starting sport on Team USA. Harden produced 10 wins this past season with his offense alone, putting him amongst the best in the entire NBA. While his field goal percentage wasn’t spectacular (45%), he still was able to score over 25 points per game and shot almost 37% from 3 point range. If one judges his true shooting percentage as the main judge of shooting (like me), his 61% is very solid and is definitely worthy of his All-Star status.
His rebounding is also above average, as he gathered about 5 rebounds per game. The best thing about Harden, however, that no one is talking about is the fact that he’s used to being in a complementary role; on the Thunder, he was of a smaller role to Westbrook and Durant, and he’ll likely be in a smaller role on Team USA as well.
However, all the good that Harden brings on the offensive side of the ball can be forgotten when someone watches him play defense. As documented by this video, Harden’s defensive effort is extremely poor at times and has cost the Rockets in key situations. Often, Harden will just reach for the ball from behind instead of moving his feet and staying with the offensive player, allowing the attacker to blow right by him for easy layups. This defensive effort is also reflected in his advanced statistics, as he only produces less than 3 wins defensively (as opposed to his 10 wins offensively) and his defensive rating is at 107, among the worst of starting shooting guards in the NBA.
There’s no question Harden will bring a positive impact to this team. His offense and rebounding at his position are amongst the best in the entire world (along with possessing one the best beards), but his defense will cause concerns when Team USA faces off against great offensive teams like Spain and Argentina.