James Harden has missed out on two MVP’s, finishing second to Stephen Curry in the 2014-15 season, and second again in the 2016-17, this time to Russell Westbrook. Could this finally be the year? Will he take home the MVP trophy this time around?
So Far This Season…
Harden is back better than ever, guiding the Rockets off to a 17-4 start (the league’s second-best overall record behind the 18-4 Celtics), he appears to be the early front runner in the race for the MVP Award. His numbers are as good as ever. He is currently averaging a career-best 31.5 points per game. He’s also averaging 9.8 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.7 steals, all the while shooting 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc.
No. 13 reached the 20-point in each of his 21 games this season. This is only the fifth time in the last 30 years that a player has scored 20 or more points in each of his first 21 games of a season, with Karl Malone doing it in 1989-90 (first 24 games), Allen Iverson in 2005-06 (first 21) and 2006-07 (first 21) and LeBron James in 2012-13 (first 33). Harden’s streak is by far the longest to a start a season in the Rockets’ franchise history. The previous mark was held by Elvin Hayes, who scored 20 or more points in each of his first 13 games of the 1969-70 season. Harden is also on the longest streak in NBA history of games with 20-plus points and 7-plus assists (21). The previous record was held by Michael Jordan (18 games in 1989).
The Rockets finished the month of November with a league-best 12-1 (.923) record, its best 13-game start since the 1996-97 season (12-1). Moreover, Houston has only won at least 90% of their games in November twice in franchise history (14-0 in 1993-94 and 15-1 in 1996-97). Harden’s team outscored opponents by an average of 16.77 points per game this month. Dating back to 1963-64, the NBA record for point differential in November is +16.83 by Boston in 1963-64.
The Rockets currently sit in second place among all teams in offensive rating (behind Warriors), solid seventh in defensive rating and again second in net rating (again behind Warriors). As a result, Houston appears to be one of the best teams in the league through six weeks of the season, and none of this would be possible at all without Harden.
On the Horizon…
The Rockets star guard is closing in on 15,000 points (14,280 current), 1,500 3-pointers made (1,474 current), 1,000 steals (940 current) and 300 blocks (285 current), and if he reaches each of those milestones, he would become the seventh player in NBA history to tally at least 15,000 points, 3,500 assists, 3,000 rebounds, 1,000 steals, 300 blocks and 1,500 3FGM joining Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki.
Harden will most likely reach those numbers this season, so before his 700th career game, to put it in perspective, Pierce was the fastest to reach those marks at 913 games (Carter at 984, James at 1,079, Kidd at 1,116, Bryant at 1,158, Nowitzki at 1,398).
James Harden is the best player on the team with the best record in the best conference. If the Rockets keep winning, and he will be the best player on the court every single night, he will be MVP of the NBA.