The unmasked man behind the trigger? Kevin Durant.
"Like he [Rose] said, I think he's the best guard in the league right now," Durant told Simmons.
Special attention must be paid to Durant's choice of words here. He didn't say "shooting guard," he said "guard," as in Harden is the best backcourt talent overall. Monta Ellis will take exception to that.
With Kobe and Wade on the wrong side of 30, I would listen to any argument portraying Harden as the Association's best 2. A strong case can still be made for either Kobe or Wade as well, but only entering the prime of his career now, the bearded wonder is certainly right there.
Talent abounds in the backcourt today, where top-notch point guards grow on trees, Kobe defies logic and Ellis' ego is never deflated. Usurping everyone who loops into that conversation is quite the order, one Harden isn't seasoned enough to deliver yet, if ever.
Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal has Harden ranked as the ninth-best player in the league. Five guards supersede him—Russell Westbrook, Kobe, Parker, Paul and Rose—putting Harden somewhere right around sixth amongst backcourt inhabitants.
That seems fair, again, given how deep the guard slots currently are. Some of those names could be interchangeable, allowing Harden to climb a rung or two up the ladder, but he's certainly not No. 1. Not right now.
Kudos to Durant for showing love to Harden, though. Old habits die hard, but it doesn't seem their friendship ever will.