In 2012, it looked like the Rockets were heading toward their nadir under the stewardship of general manager Daryl Morey. Three nondescript seasons in the back end of the NBA lottery had the city in a hoops malaise. Then, on October 27, 2012, it all changed. Morey was able to steal James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder, and once again, the Rockets mattered. Harden's presence was a huge factor in luring Dwight Howard to Houston a year later. Now, three seasons into his Rockets career, Harden has gone from sixth man in OKC to one of the three best basketball players on the planet, finishing second in the 2014-15 MVP balloting behind Steph Curry. At 26 years old, Harden is just now entering his prime, and the Kevin Martin era feels like it was 20 years ago. Fear the beard, people. Fear the beard.
READERS' CHOICE: James Harden