James Harden is having the time of his life with the ball in his hands and absolute freedom. Under new Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, the "points guard" is empowered like never before, averaging 31.6 points, 12.7 assists and 7.1 rebounds with a usage rate of 34 percent and a true shooting percentage of 66.5 percent. As long as the Rockets play decent defense, he's a good bet to win Most Valuable Player.

And he thinks he's the best player in the world.

From The Vertical's Michael Lee:

Harden has long dominated the ball as a facilitating shooting guard, but D'Antoni ended speculation about what he truly is by stamping him with the label of full-time point guard. Now that Harden is setting up teammates better than anyone else and currently leads the league in assists, who is the league's best player at his position?

"Best point guard or best player?" Harden responded when asked.

Either one.

"I am," Harden told The Vertical.

James Harden seems confident
James Harden, confident guy. USATSI

You might laugh this off, dismissing Harden's statistical production in favor of LeBron James' track record and 2016 NBA Finals performance, Stephen Curry's back-to-back MVP awards or Kawhi Leonard's two-way dominance. When CBS Sports ranked the top 100 players going into the season, we ranked Harden fifth, behind those three players and Kevin Durant, whose early-season play rivals Harden's in terms of all-around production and efficiency.

It's worth noting, however, that Harden is playing significantly better than he did two years ago when he finished second in MVP voting. It's a small sample size, but in D'Antoni's system, he is essentially doing what Steve Nash did on the way to the 2005 and 2006 MVP awards, but even more effectively. Remember how Nash's coaches always told him to look for his shot more often? No one has to tell Harden that -- he is looking to attack at all times, and when he passes, the ball almost always finds a wide-open shooter or cutter.

Back in the summer of 2014, Harden declared that he's the best player alive. In 2015, he said that he felt he was the MVP, a stance he did not back down from after the Golden State Warriors won the championship. There's no reason to expect him to say anything different now -- he clearly plays with the confidence of someone who believes no one is better than him.

Now, if he really wants to prove he's the best, there are a few things he must do: Keep up these numbers, play as hard as he can on defense and lead the Rockets to home-court advantage in the playoffs. Simple, right?