Where Does James Harden Rank Among the NBA's Top 10 Superstars?
But the question is: Where does he rank amongst the NBA's top stars?
First off, it's worth establishing what makes a superstar in the NBA. High scoring averages aren't enough—it's how well you can create for your teammates, lead them to victory and play at a high all-around level.
The NBA's elite often changes from season to season. Players like Deron Williams have played their way out of the conversation this year. What sets superstars apart from them is their ability to be there year after year.
While Harden hasn't proved that he can establish longevity just yet, his previous play in Oklahoma City in the sixth man's role suggest that he can keep it up. His play and impact on the Rockets this season is reason enough to put him in the discussion, though.
10. Tony Parker
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Despite orchestrating a San Antonio Spurs offense to three NBA Finals championships, Tony Parker still goes largely unnoticed throughout the league.
He's one of the most efficient players in the NBA, shooting 49.5 percent from the floor for his career. That's led to a 17.1 points per game average.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili could not have asked for a better running mate, especially considering the spark he brings to the floor night in and night out. It seems as if his motor never runs out, even after playing in the NBA since he was 19 years old (he's currently 30).
Parker would be higher on this list if he were more dominant offensively. That being said, his longevity and importance to one of the best teams of the past decade makes him an easy lock for the top 10.
With Duncan on the downslope of his career and Ginobili constantly battling to stay healthy, Parker will soon take the reigns as the heart and soul of the Spurs—if he hasn't already, that is.
9. James Harden
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James Harden has transformed the Houston Rockets franchise into a playoff contender in just his first season on the team—and his first season as a full-time starter.
The additions of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik have helped to make the Rockets better as well, but they would not be where they were today if Harden was still in Oklahoma City.
The impact that he's had on the team has put him in the discussion for NBA MVP, though he could likely be trumped by some of the league's bigger stars (who we'll get to a little later).
On the season, he's dropping 26.1 points while also dishing out 5.7 assists per contest. His 44.8 field goal percentage is respectable, as is his 34.7 three-point percentage.
Harden's position on this list is the most subject to change as we move into the future. He could easily climb this list with multiple strong seasons and he could easily fall off the list entirely if this season proves to be a fluke.
Once a Sixth Man of the Year Award winner, now an NBA superstar—it's been quite the past two seasons for the man with the beard.
8. Russell Westbrook
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Even as the second-fiddle in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook is a legitimate NBA superstar.
Both he and teammate Kevin Durant have implemented a change of culture for a franchise that hasn't seen success since they were the Seattle SuperSonics. Last season, Westbrook was a huge reason the team dominated the Western Conference and made the first NBA Finals appearance in team history.
Westbrook's never been a very efficient scorer—he has a career field goal percentage of 43 percent—but he has averaged over 21 points per game each of the past three seasons.
Some will argue that he takes shots away from Durant, but Westbrook is perfectly capable of being the top dog on a team too.
Even in a league with so many talented players, it can be argued that Westbrook is one of the most dynamic and athletic players in the game.
His quickness when driving to the basket and power when he throws down dunks is unmatched by most.
With Westbrook, the scary thing is that he still has room to improve. Look out NBA.
7. Dwyane Wade
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Dwyane Wade has scored over 21 points per game every single season since 2004-05. He's totaled at least 4.5 assists per game every season since 2003-04. He's even averaged at least 4.0 rebounds per contest every year since 2003-04.
Wade is as much a star on court as he is off, starring in countless commercials and being one of the best representatives of the game of basketball.
Wade is truly a superstar in every sense of the word.
He'd be a bit higher on the list had James not taken away from his offensive game over the past two seasons, but even being mentioned on this list speaks to the type of player he is.
Wade is arguably the best player in Miami Heat history and still has several good years left in him. With the team he's currently the leader of, he stands a chance to win a couple more championships before he calls it quits.
6. Dwight Howard
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Dwight Howard is one of the top-three most dominant players in the NBA—period.
He's averaged 12.9 rebounds per game over the course of his career, maxing out at 14.5 per game and leading the NBA in rebounding on four separate occasions. He's coupled that with a career scoring average of 18.3.
Those 18.3 points per contest have come very efficiently, as he's shot over 57 percent from the floor for his career.
Defensively, he's one of the top shot blockers in the league. He's racked up over 2.0 blocks per game every season since 2007-08.
What's holding Howard back from being even higher up is his somewhat negative image (the whole exit from Orlando didn't exactly bode well for how people viewed him) and the fact that he's still never won a championship.
He has the chance to do so with the Los Angeles Lakers, but only if the team can play with some chemistry and overcome their current issues.
Regardless, consistency and sheer dominance puts Howard on this list.
5. Chris Paul
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Team leader, defensive specialist, NBA personality and philanthropist—what else do you want from an NBA superstar?
Chris Paul is one of the most talented players in the NBA in nearly every facet of the game. Here are his per game averages for his career: 18.6 points, 9.8 assists, 2.4 steals and 4.4 rebounds.
He's led the league in steals five of the past six seasons and has picked up over 2.0 steals per game in every season but one (2006-07).
Even in his rookie season, Paul was the leader of the New Orleans Hornets. While the team didn't achieve all that much success, he still had an impact on a team that was felt around the NBA.
Now as a member of the Clippers, Paul is orchestrating an offense that is both explosive and dynamic. "Lob City" is easily one of the most entertaining teams to watch, but not only for their high-flying dunks and jaw-dropping alley-oop passes.
Paul has turned the once-laughable franchise into a real winner, possibly even stealing the Los Angeles limelight from the Lakers.
Paul is a game-changer and a superstar—enough said.
4. Carmelo Anthony
It goes without saying that he didn't surprise many when he averaged 21.0 points per game in his rookie season and then continued to average at least 20.8 points every single season for the next nine years.
No longer with the Nuggets, he's now in search of his first NBA title with the New York Knicks. Since joining the team midway through the 2010-11 season, Anthony has brought with him a winning atmosphere and a feeling of relevance.
Anthony is one of the few players in the NBA who can dominate on any given night against any given team, and that's something that makes him truly special.
He's one of the top offensive threats in the NBA and has had an impact on two NBA franchises since he's entered the league—thus making him a superstar.
3. Kobe Bryant
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Kobe Bryant is one of the best players to ever step foot on a basketball court. He's been a member of five different NBA Finals champions and has finished in the top five of MVP voting on 11 different occasions (he won the award once in 2007-08).
Sure, his image has fluctuated from time to time, but his impact on the court trumps anything that has happened to him off.
Not many can completely take over games like Bryant. In 2005-06, he averaged a ridiculous 35.4 points per game. The following season he again topped 30 with a mark of 31.6.
The biggest game of his career came on January 22, 2006, against the Toronto Raptors, when he scored 81 points on 28-of-46 shooting (7-13 from three).
That 81-point game represented the greatest single-game endeavor by the "Black Mamba," but his career will forever be remembered for his impact on the Lakers.
He and Shaquille O'Neal continued the storied history of the Lakers franchise, and he's still been able to do so in the post-Shaq era.
Bryant is a once-in-a-lifetime player—period.
2. Kevin Durant
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Kevin Durant has been the most prolific scorer in the NBA each of the past four seasons (including 2012-13), averaging 30.1, 27.7, 28.0 and 29.0 points per game respectively.
He and Russell Westbrook are responsible for the change of culture in Oklahoma City and for turning the once-lowly Thunder into a Western Conference powerhouse.
Durant's unique combination of size, agility and athleticism make him a threat in every offensive facet of the game. He can shoot with the best, pass quite well and drive to the basket to throw down powerful dunks.
There aren't many things that Durant doesn't do well, and the only possible fault you can put on him is that he couldn't pull out a series win in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat last season.
He's playing arguably the best basketball of his career this season, though, and it seems as if he's out looking for revenge and another shot at a title.
As one of the most dominant players in the game today, I wouldn't put it past him to single-handedly carry his team to the top.
1. LeBron James
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When you're considered the savior of the NBA coming out of high school, you're probably a damn good basketball player.
LeBron James is more than just that, though. He's the face of the NBA, a philanthropist, media personality and one of the nicest people in the game today—notice I said "people" and not "player."
For some reason, fans and analysts love to hate on James. Even though he's the best player in the game, people cite his lack of NBA Finals excellence as enough of a reason to ride him into the ground.
Last season's Finals victory put some doubters in their respective places, but the LeBron haters still linger.
He hasn't averaged less than 26.7 points per game since the 2003-04 season (his rookie campaign), and he has the innate ability to pass like a point guard as a 6'8" physical specimen.
James is the best player in the NBA and likely will be until he retires. He's light years ahead of every other player and has a shot at winning several more championships with the team assembled in Miami.
LeBron James is the best, no ifs, ands or buts about it.