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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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EOTR Case For MVP Vol. 2: James Harden

By @TrueGodImmortal 

Though I'm not personally his biggest fan, James Harden is having one of the best years of his career, possibly his best. It is a bit expected to be honest, as Harden has shown that he's the leader of the Rockets, and with Mike D'Antoni as the Rockets head coach, you knew he was due for a big year and that the Rockets offense would be overpowering for a majority of the teams. Their output in the preseason hinted at the dominance they would have, so if you're surprised that the Rockets are in contention and a slight title contender, you might have been sleeping on the Rockets. For those that weren't sleeping on the Rockets, Harden's season is beyond impressive, but we knew that he was going to have a great year. He's leading the league in double doubles, has a top 3 team in the tough and vicious Western Conference, and he's leading the league in assists. That's nothing short of spectacular for a player that's in the West and today, we wanted to take a brief look at why James Harden has a case for the MVP. Let's take a look at his season.

*63 Double Doubles And 22 Triple Doubles 

-While it isn't quite the feat of the record breaking season for Russ, this is still largely impressive. Considering that he leads the league also in double doubles with 63, this is an impressive feat. Harden has been just shy of a triple double many times this year, speaking to a level of consistency that you have to be a top tier player to keep up. To put it in perspective, only two players this season have more than 20 triple doubles this season: Harden and Westbrook. In terms of double doubles, there are only three guards in the top 15 of that list: Harden, Westbrook, and John Wall. Harden leads the NBA with just one more double double than Westbrook, and to end up with 63 double doubles on the season is honestly one of the all time great feats in this particular era of basketball.

*Leading The League In Assists 

-James has a pretty solid team to help, but he's the piece that drives that team 100%. Currently sitting at 11.2 assists per game, Harden will end the year as the assists leader and he's earned every right to do so. He's made plays down the stretch and seems even more comfortable in the point guard role than he was in the shooting guard role. He's in the top 3 of scoring and averaging 8 rebounds, but his most impressive stat to me is his 11 assists per game. Dishing out dimes to Lou Williams, Ryan Anderson, Patrick Beverly, Clint Capela, or Eric Gordon, Harden was always able to find the open man or the open shooter for a quick three or lob it up to Capela for a big slam. It's not easy to put up 29 points a game and lead the league in assists, but Harden did just that. That Mike D'Antoni offense usually doesn't fail and Harden has worked very well within it.

*Getting The Rockets To The 3rd Seed And 55 Wins 

-Though Harden and the Rockets were always going to be a solid team, it's watching them work so well together that's the most fun. After the Clippers and Thunder went on a downward spiral after the loss of a few key players to injury, Houston began to pull away with the 3rd seed. Sure, the Warriors and the Spurs were locks to win the 1st and 2nd seeds, but many of us weren't aware that the Rockets would be no. 3 and win 55 games. No matter what anyone says, there is no way you expected THIS. Sure, Harden has a very solid team around him, but the fact remains his superb season is what led them to such a great record and a top seed. For Harden to put up 2,000 points plus in a season and help create over 4,500 points for the entire season shows the level of consistency it took to push that team even further. A no. 3 seed, 55 wins, and an all around great season that includes breaking the three point record for most threes in a season. The Rockets and Harden have been nothing short of superb this year.

*Two 50 Point Triple Doubles 

-It's never been a season where we witnessed multiple 50 point triple doubles. Two people have done it. This season. Westbrook and Harden. Harden has had interesting moments this year. Harden had his first 50 point triple double during a tough battle with the Knicks. Registering 53 points, 16 rebounds, and 17 assists, Harden led the Knicks to victory. This game was at the end of December 2016, on New Year's Eve, a great way to start the year off for Harden. His second 50 point triple double came three weeks later in a hard fought victory over the 76ers as Harden put up 51 points, 13 assists and 13 rebounds on 57% from the field and 54% from three. In these two performances, Harden showed up and led his team, but most of all, the Rockets got the win in both of those games. When we talk about valuable, that's exactly what it is all about. Leading your team.

Final Thought
Is James Harden my personal pick for MVP? No. Could he be yours? He most certainly could. The thing about Harden that makes him have such a strong case for the MVP is not just his stats, but his team. The MVP award most of the time goes to the players with the best teams and the top 2 seeds, although by that logic, Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard have better cases for the award, the fact still remains Harden is playing out of this world. To average a double double is always a special feat to me (especially when this includes assists) and to put up a triple double in over 25% of the games on the season shows the level of play you are bringing to the table every night. Can James Harden win MVP? He has every chance to and he has a lot of things working in his favor. Is he my pick? No, he'd be my 2nd pick personally, but the fact remains, if he wins, there's nothing you nor I can say about it because he definitely would deserve it.



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