(center) believes he's a Top-10 NBA player. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport)
James Harden has weighed in after he found himself at the center of a social media squabble between Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade, stating unequivocally that he should be considered a top-10 NBA player.
Last week, The Point Forward unveiled our Top 100 players of 2014, a ranking that put Harden at No. 11. Informed of Harden's placement during an interview with Cinesport.com, the Thunder's Durant said Tuesday that Harden should have replaced the Heat's Wade in the list's top 10. Wade checked in at No. 8.
In a video interview with Comcast Sportsnet Houston, Harden said Thursday that he is without question a top-10 NBA player.
"For sure," Harden said. "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."
Durant's comment provoked an immediate response from Wade, who posted a message to Durant on his Instagram account. Dating the note 9/24/13, Wade wrote: “Kevin Durant said James Harden should replace me in the top 10… Note to self: Make him respect your place in history… again … “
Responding to Wade’s response, Durant wrote on Twitter: “Show me, don’t tweet me.”
Rockets center Dwight Howard, who was No. 7 on the SI.com list, also stood up for his new teammate in an interview on Thursday.
"No doubt," Howard told CSN Houston, when asked if Harden was a top-10 player. "I think he has the ability to be one of the best shooting guards to ever play the game. He has a lot of talent. He works very hard, and he's young. He just turned 24 years old. The potential for him is through the roof. I believe in him, me and him can do some special things together."
There was some speculation as to whether the Durant/Wade exchange was genuine, as the two stars have appeared together in a Gatorade commercial. Wade, Harden and Howard all stated Thursday in separate interviews that they believed it was an authentic exchange of opinions.
“Everyone has their opinion,” Wade said, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “We're in the age now where everyone uses their opinion. That was it. He had an opinion. I had a response and there you have it.”
"That's how KD feels," Harden told CSN Houston. "We've been teammates [on the Thunder] for a couple of years now. Obviously, I was coming off the bench, which was my decision. I didn't get as much credit or whatnot as much as everyone else, or every other shooting guard in the league. Now, I'm in kind of my own situation, I'm starting to get my own recognition. That's how KD felt."
Howard agreed: "I think it's real, too. What I told James is just to stay away from it. We do our talking on the floor. There's no need to go back and forth. We're going to see both of those teams, and when we do, let them know who the best shooting guard in the world is."
Wade was the top-ranked shooting guard on SI.com's list, followed by the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (No. 9) and Harden. The full top 10, in order: James, Durant, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Westbrook, Tim Duncan, Howard, Wade, Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.
Wade, 31, averaged 21.2 points. 5.1 assists, five rebounds and 1.9 steals and shot 52.1 percent from the field last season. The nine-time All-Star and three-time champion posted a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 24 and 9.6 Win Shares (a metric that uses box score data to estimate the total number of wins a given player contributes) for the Heat, who won their second title in a row.
Harden, 24, averaged 25.9 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals and shot 43.8 percent in his first season with Houston after being traded from Oklahoma City. The four-year veteran had a PER of 23 and 12.8 Win Shares, and was selected to his first All-Star Game.
Hat tip: ProBasketballTalk