Team: Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks, 23.0 PER
The difference between James Harden and Kobe Bryant comes on the defensive end of the court.
Here's where you may be thinking something along the lines of, "What? I heard all year that Kobe was awful at defense now!"
And yes, you probably did hear that. It was a prevailing thought during the Mamba's last go-around, but it was also an ultimately misleading one.
It's true that Kobe's defense has declined rather dramatically from the days that he deservedly spent earning All-Defense selections early in his career. He's lazy getting back in transition, and he often watches the ball instead of actually rotating to help out.
Kobe's off-ball defense is terrible. There's no denying that.
However, he's still great in man-to-man situations when his man has control of the rock. According to 82games.com, he held opposing 2-guards to a 12.8 PER, and the Synergy numbers are similarly favorable.
In fact, let's compare those to Harden's numbers while remembering that the bearded shooting guard is a similarly poor off-ball defender, something that isn't accounted for here.
With the exception of post-up situations, Harden allows more points per possession (PPP) than Kobe across the board. He just can't match his defensive output, and until he does, he won't overtake the Mamba as the best shooting guard in basketball.
He's getting close, but barring an unexpectedly long recovery from the Achilles injury, Kobe still reigns supreme.