James Harden is a reasonable man.
Unfiltered and unfounded assertions are the norm in the NBA. If Metta World Peace isn't predicting the Los Angeles Lakers will make the finals, John Wall is maintaining that he's a top-five point guard. That kind of ridiculous is all too common.
The bearded wonder doesn't subscribe to such comical ideals. He won't build up his former team or unjustly bolster his standing in the league.
So when he was asked during an interview with Comcast Sportsnet Houston (h/t Sports Illustrated) if he was a top-10 NBA player, it's no surprise he took the less traveled, sensible road with his answer:
For sure. For sure. Last year I got a chance to prove it, I kind of broke out of the shell a little bit. Even though it was my first year [as a starter], I’ve got a lot more to prove. I’ve kind of always been the underdog, always been looked over, so it’s nothing new.
Admitting that you're a top-10 star isn't the definition of humility, but with all the other arrogance out there, Harden's personal assessment seems modest.
Others would have taken this opportunity to put themselves in the top five or top three. Monta Ellis probably would've rattled off Dwyane Wade comparisons.
Not Harden, though. He doesn't put a concrete number on it; he just believes he's in the top 10. Because he is.
Where does Harden rank among the NBA's superstars?
Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal has him ranked No. 9, behind Russell Westbrook (No. 8) and in front of Wade (No. 10), in his latest superstar power rankings. From where I'm standing, that's an accurate finish, one that Harden should be able to build upon if Kobe Bryant (No. 6) and Derrick Rose (No. 4) don't recover from injuries as quickly as anticipated.
Harden is coming off a career year with the Rockets, during which he finished fifth in scoring with 25.9 points per game and led Houston to its first playoff berth in three years.
He also joined LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Michael Jordan and Gilbert Arenas as just the fifth player in league history to notch at least 25 points, four rebounds, five assists and 1.5 steals per game in a single season before his 24th birthday.
Maybe Harden was selling himself short after all.