James Harden: Making the MVP Case

At the end of the 2015-2016 NBA season, we witnessed history on two levels: The 72-win Bulls replaced by the 73-win Warriors, who were led by the league’s first unanimous MVP: Steph Curry.

A lot’s changed since and with the end of the NBA season approaching, there’s no player in the league with a commanding league on taking home the regular season award for what’s really become an award for the best player on the best team (that’s an argument for another day.)

With no clear-cut leader in the MVP race, it’s only right to examine five of the league’s best players to see who has made the best case for MVP.

The score first, second and third-minded, defensive liability that was James Edward Harden is no more.

Harden was alway’s the Rockets’ primary ball handler, but a coaching change — he and Mike D’Antoni were made for each other– and a move to point guard has changed Harden–and the Rockets–for the better.

Harden is still averaging the same amount of points per game (29.0) and roughly the same shooting percentage (43.9 to 44.3) from last season to this, but he’s upped his assists from 7.5 to a league-leading 11.3 per game while playing less minutes (38.1 to 36.5).

Advanced metrics like PER won’t make (or break) Harden’s case, but a league-leading 12.4 win shares bodes well in his favor.

Since this is an MVP award, it makes sense to mention 50 percent of his teammates field goals come from a Harden assist.

Harden’s numbers are hardly shallow, as Houston currently sits as the third seed in the Western Conference (and hold the third-best record in the association) and 6.5 games back from the Spurs. Third place may not seem like much, but when the competition includes the Spurs and Warriors, you kinda take it as a win.

Why Harden shouldn’t win

There’s literally no case to build against Harden, who took his team from a fringe playoff team to one of the best in the NBA…..

….Unless you remember last year’s third seed, Oklahoma City, lost arguably one of the three best players in the sport, blowing the door wide open for any team to take that position. The Clippers weren’t going to do it sans Blake Griffin and CP3, while Utah has a chance to actually supplant them as the third-seed.

That’s without mentioning the implosions from Dallas and Portland.

For all of Harden’s offensive transformations, he still turns the ball over at a ridiculous rate of 5.8 per game (he’s actually led the league in total turnovers the past three seasons).

Sure, Harden has, in his new role, transformed the Rockets into a potential championship contender, but did it come as the result of a perfect storm?


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