James Harden After Giannis Joke: Wish I Could Be 7 Feet and Dunk, Takes No Skill

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2020

Houston Rockets' James Harden drives the ball against the Golden State Warriors in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Houston Rockets guard James Harden defended his style of play during an interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Friday.

At the 5:52 mark of the following video, Harden noted that he has to constantly work on his skill set since he doesn't have the same size and athleticism as some other players:

"I wish I could be 7-feet, run and just dunk. That takes no skill at all," Harden said. "I gotta actually learn how to play basketball and how to have skill. I'll take that any day."

While Harden didn't mention a player by name, his comment came after Nichols mentioned Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo's joke about taking Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker over Harden in the All-Star Game draft since he wanted someone who would pass the ball.

While Giannis seemed to be kidding, Harden didn't find it funny considering he ranks ninth in the NBA in assists per game with 7.3, while Walker is tied for 36th with 5.0 per game.

Harden has been criticized at times for dominating the ball on the offensive end and not necessarily excelling defensively, but there is no denying the production he has provided the Rockets since they acquired him from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012.

The 30-year-old Harden has been named an All-Star in each of his eight seasons with the Rockets, and he is on pace to lead the NBA in scoring for the third consecutive year. So far this season, Harden is averaging 35.2 points, 7.3 assists and 6.4 rebounds per contest.

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Harden also figures to be in the MVP conversation after winning the award during the 2017-18 campaign.

Last season, Giannis beat out Harden for MVP honors, as he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game and led the Bucks to the NBA's best record.

The Bucks are the NBA's best team again this season, andย Giannis has been even better individually with 29.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per contest.

At 6'11", Giannis does much of his damage inside the arc and in the paint, but he has improved as a shooter and is averaging a career-high 1.5 three-pointers per game, while shooting 31.4 percent from beyond the arc, which is up from 25.6 percent last season.

The MVP race this season could come down to Giannis and Harden again, with Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic sprinkled in as well.

Few star players are more different than Giannis and Harden, but they are both highly effective and there is no end in sight to their dominance over the league.