Last years MVP race was hands down one of the best in NBA history; Westbrook averaged a triple double, Harden carried the Rockets while leading the league in assists, LeBron was LeBron, and Kawhi showed us why his name deserves to be mentioned among the best in the league. In the end, it was Westbrook who edged out the competition and was crowned Most Valuable Player in what proved to be a close race. While this years race for MVP may not be as close, right now, it has been just as electrifying.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is taking that next step into super-stardom and his ceiling is beginning to look scary. LeBron James, like a fine wine, is getting better with age while willing his Cavs to wins. But in this post I want to focus on a certain bearded beast out West by the name of Harden, because right now, he’s been the MVP of not only the Rockets, but of the League.
James Harden, Houston Rockets: If you’ve been watching the NBA this season, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see “The Beards” name in this, because when the guy is 100%, he’s virtually unstoppable. What might surprise you though, is the fact that Harden has been a viable MVP candidate for the last three seasons. Could this finally be his year?
Looking at his numbers through 35 games, Harden is averaging an astounding 32 points, five rebounds, nine assists, and two steals, coupling his 45% shooting from the field with a career best 39% from deep. Harden has been an absolute monster on the offensive end this year, seemingly mastering his ability to initiate contact and get to the line, a fact well-illustrated by his league leading 10.5 free-throw attempts per game. Harden has also improved upon his efficiency, boasting the best player efficiency rating in the NBA at 30.4. In regards to Harden’s value to the Rockets, he is exactly what he has been throughout his six year tenure in Houston, undoubtedly invaluable. Harden leads the league in offensive win shares with 6.5, overall win shares at 8.0, in addition to boasting the highest usage rating in the NBA at 36.0 percent, proving how just how much the beard means to the success of Houston.
Simply put, Harden is coupling his sky-high usage rate with a quality efficiency rating that we have not seen before from him with wondrous results. Harden is also averaging his fewest turnovers a game since 2015, while still being able to effectively distribute the ball and get teammates involved. The chemistry between Harden and Clint Capela is undeniable, a factor that I see them carrying into the Playoffs, as well as one that has led to career highs across the board for the young big man. Harden has also played well both with and without new addition Chris Paul, a positive sign for the future of this Rockets team.
Every year it seems that James Harden just wants to prove why he is among the best five players in the NBA, and this year…”The Beard” may prevail. If Harden is able to return from his grade two hamstring injury and pick up where he left off leading the Rockets, I don’t believe his missing time will be enough to hold him from the MVP. With that being said, being sidelined for the next few weeks will hurt his chances and open up a lane for studs like LeBron and the “Greek Freak” to make their bids.
But as of now, Harden has been magnificent, I don’t see how he isn’t the MVP today.
Stats via BasketballReference.com/Teamrankings.com
Images via Google.com