60 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. A stat line the likes of which we had never seen, until Tuesday night. James Harden’s offensive dominance is taking the NBA world by storm and helping the Rockets emerge as true contenders. All the while, Harden has become the favourite to claim MVP honours, separating himself from the rest of the pack hunting the highest individual honour in basketball.
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JAMES Harden should be defending his MVP crown after finishing runner-up last season to Westbrook, but that’s a discussion for another day. Either way, through roughly 60% of the season he has redefined what we thought was possible on the offensive side of the ball. Harden is literally having his way with the league, doing whatever he wants with the ball in hand. He has scored more points and made more 3’s than anyone in the league, despite missing seven games in January.
A rare mix of Harden combining Westbrook’s ridiculous box scores and Curry’s ability to go off from behind the arc has him positioned atop the MVP ladder looking down at everyone else. On the next rung is LeBron James, who entering 2018 probably had a case for winning the award. A miserably past month where James shot just 22% from 3-point land and his Cavs went 6-8 might be looked back on as the month that cost him a real shot at winning his fifth most valuable player trophy.
IN the next tier are the likes of Westbrook, Curry and Durant, all of whom are previous winners and could possibly go bananas to close out the year and steal the MVP from right under Harden’s nose. The Russell Westbrook revenge tour ended after last season, but the reigning winner is still averaging close to a triple-double. Sitting at 30-23, if he wants to go back-to-back the Thunder will have to push their way up the standings over the seasons final few months.
THE former third member of the OKC trio Kevin Durant and his Golden State teammate Steph Curry are annually in the hunt based on the Warriors dominance. Both of them are averaging over 25/5/5 but neither of them is doing enough from a solo standpoint to push them into real contention. After what happened to the 73 win Dubs in the 2015-16 season, I’m sure they have their focus solely zeroed in on defending their title rather than chasing another MVP.
KYRIE Irving also deserves to be in the mix after leading Boston to the top of the East. Again similarly to the pair in Oakland, wins are a premium for the Celtics and it’s unlikely that Irving will go on a tear that pushes him into the MVP discussions. If Boston goes on to win 60+ games it could be possible, but it’s still unlikely.
A handful of others deserve mention like Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan and Giannis Antetokounmpo. While these guys are bonafide stars, for one reason or another (team record, stat lines) they haven’t garnered as much attention as the other players I have already talked about. Giannis especially was one of the favourites early on in the season, but thanks to the Bucks’ struggles he has found himself out of the conversation.
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WITH 30+ games left a ton could still happen in the league and the playoff race in both conferences is starting to heat up. Barring anything exceptional though James Harden will be the winner of the 2017-18 MVP and he is more than deserving. The only way he won’t win the award is if Westbrook or James fuel a huge winning streak for their teams and raise eyebrows with their video game like numbers. Kind of like what James Harden has been doing all season long.
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