• Marc Cantave

Is James Harden Leading the Race for MVP?

James Harden has been the runner up in MVP voting in two of the last three years, but has always fallen just short of winning the award. In 2015, he lost the award to Stephen Curry by less than 300 total votes and in 2017, he lost the award to Russell Westbrook by a little over 100 points.

His play last year was phenomenal as he led the Houston Rockets to 55 wins. Well this season he’s been playing better and the Rockets may improve on that record this year. The Rockets are 14-4 (second best record in the NBA) and with Chris Paul’s absence, James Harden has been carrying the team. So can this year be the year he finally walks away with the award?

The Numbers

James Harden is currently averaging 31.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 9.8 assists per game, while shooting 44.7 percent from the field and a career high 39.5 percent from three. He’s shooting 86 percent from the free throw line and has an effective field goal percentage of 54.9 as well as a player efficiency rating (PER) of 29.7, which is third in the NBA. The man gets buckets and does so efficiently.

To delve deeper into the numbers, Harden has a true shooting percentage of 62.2 percent with a high three point attempt rate at 52.1 percent. Meaning that Harden is scoring mainly from outside and he’s shooting the ball efficiently from deep. These specific numbers all happen to be career highs based on the amount of shots he’s shooting. But it’s not just scoring that has made Harden a viable MVP candidate.

Harden has an assist percentage of 50.5 percent. Majority of the time Harden is on the floor they’ve scored because of Harden. His win shares per 48 minutes is .303 which is above the league average of .100. Once again these numbers are career highs for Harden as he’s basically the offensive engine for the Rockets. They are +12.8 with him on the court and only +1.6 with him off the court.

Needless to say, Harden is putting in work and the team is winning as he’s also first in the NBA in win shares. People may criticize Harden’s defense, but offensively he’s been effective and efficient. So far this season he’s on a mission to prove that he’s an MVP player as he’s top five in almost every offensive category.

Chances of Winning MVP

As of right now, Harden is in the lead for the MVP race with a little cushion. Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics and Giannis Antetokounmpo are also in the discussion, but Kyrie numbers aren’t as strong as Harden’s and Giannis’ Bucks aren’t as good as the Rockets. Harden and his squad are playing well. Those two components are usually the formula for a MVP season and Harden is on pace.

We haven’t seen someone put up offensive numbers like these since Steph Curry’s 2015-16 season to which he won the award unanimously. James Harden’s numbers are looking better than last years’ and if he can sustain this level of productivity, he will finally come away with the award.

Things will get interesting as Chris Paul recently returned to the lineup. However, Harden scored 48 points against the Phoenix Suns so Paul presence may actually help his chances of getting MVP.

This year may finally be the year that we can call James Harden an MVP and with the numbers he’s put up in the first quarter of the season, he should have no problem winning it.

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