The MVP Race: Is This Finally James Harden’s Year?
Now that the all-star break has come and gone, the MVP race is now starting to really heat up. This is the time of year where teams really start to ramp up their run at the playoffs and players start prepare themselves for the rigors of post-season basketball.
The MVP is still somewhat wide open with a handful of potential winners still in the mix. But with that being said, James Harden remains the clear front runner. Unlike the 2015 and 2017, where he was slightly overshadowed by two other Western Conference guards, Harden has done more than enough to put himself at the top of the heap in 2018. Barring a rather big change in circumstances, it looks as though Harden will finally capture that elusive league MVP trophy.
With that being said, Harden does still have some competition.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are really starting to ramp things up in the Eastern conference. The new squad seems to have re-energized LeBron James, who proved that he is still the best player on the planet over the All-Star break. If James’ and the Cavs can get hot at the right time, the King will absolutely be a threat to Harden’s claim to league MVP.
Another threat to Harden’s chances lie in the team standings. Both Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan have led their teams to excellent team record so far this season. If Harden and the Rockets hit a slump during the most important time in the regular season, and one of these teams really heats up, it could be DeRozan or Durant swooping in at the eleventh hour to claim league MVP honors.
Finally, we come to some remaining dark horses. Players like Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo are like swimming sharks waiting in on the outskirts of the race. Perhaps if one of those teams really start to roll and their team leader puts up some historically great performances (such as Anthony Davis’ current tear), then we might have one of the most exciting ending to an MVP race in recent history.
James Harden (31.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 9.0 APG, 30.5 PER) Houston Rockets (46 – 13) Through the first half of the season, James Harden has had no equal. During the first half of the season Harden has given us the only two 50+ PTS and 10+ AST games this season as well the first ever 60-point triple-double in NBA history. Everything seems to be falling into place, and barring anything disastrous down the stretch of the season, he should be league MVP.
LeBron James (26.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 8.9 APG, 27.7 PER) Cleveland Cavaliers (35 – 24) Since the trade deadline earlier this month, James has been on an absolute tear averaging 29 PTS, 10.6 REB and 13.0 AST. The Cavaliers are 5-2 over that stretch while they try to create a nice fit for their new pieces. If James can maintain similar production and the Cavs can continue to rack up the wins, King James might be able to edge Harden at the end of the season.
DeMar DeRozan (23.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 5.2 APG, 22.0 PER) Toronto Raptors (42 – 17) Once again, the preseason critics were dead wrong about DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors. Vegas predicted the Raptors would win only 47 games this season after back-to-back 50-win seasons in 2016 and 2017. DeRozan has used the disrespect as motivation however, and although his scoring numbers are down this season, his expanded skill-set has taken the Raptors to heights as they currently hold the number 1 seed in the East.
Kevin Durant (26.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.5 APG, 25.7 PER) Golden State Warriors (47 – 14) Unfortunately for Durant he is always going to split votes with Stephen Curry so long as they remain teammates. Despite, this Durant is proving why he is the reigning Finals MVP. He is just as valuable as Curry offensively, but defensively Durant is in a different league. Durant might be able to close the gap during these finals weeks as the Warriors shift into playoff mode.
Anthony Davis (27.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.4 APG, 28.3 PER) New Orleans Pelicans (34 – 26) When DeMarcus Cousins was ruled out of the remained of the season, many wrote the Pelicans off. However, Davis has been a monster as of late and has not only kept New Orleans in playoff contention, but has kept them in the hunt to hold home court advantage. Over their current 6-game win streak, Davis is averaging a blazing 41.5 PTS and 15 rebounds.
Kyrie Irving (24.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 5.1 APG, 24.7 PER) Boston Celtics (43 – 19) Irving’s first season as a Celtic has gone as well as anyone could have guessed. He has cemented himself as a legitimate first option and has led the Celtics to a better record than his old team, which has to feel good. Unfortunately the Celtics have been rather mediocre lately, which has hurt Irving’s MVP case.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (27.6 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, 28.4 PER) Milwaukee Bucks (33 – 26) The Bucks haven’t taken the step forward that some were expecting, however none of that can be blamed on Giannis. The Greek Freak has been outstanding all season long, but he’s been surrounded by chaos. Between the early season trade, head coach Jason Kidd’s firing, and the return of Jabari Parker, Giannis has been one of the only consistent things in Milwaukee this year.
Russell Westbrook (25.1 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 10.4 APG, 24.8 PER) Oklahoma City Thunder (35 – 27) The reigning league MVP isn’t having quite the season he had a year ago, but Westbrook still stuffs the stat sheet better than anyone else on the planet. Westbrook is averaging just half a rebound short of a triple double. If he was able to ramp up his late season rebounding, Russ would become the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in multiple seasons.
Damian Lillard (26.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.5 APG, 24.5 PER) Portland Trail Blazers (34 – 26) Damian Lillard is once again having a remarkable season. It’s shocking how Dame manages to fly under the radar each and every season when you consider the level of play he consistently plays at. Not only is he one of the most talented point guards in the league, but he is slowly making a case as the most clutch player in the league.
Karl-Anthony Towns (20.2 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 24.4 PER) Minnesota Timberwolves (35 – 26) Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler have proven to be a great pairing, and the Wolves are having their best season since Kevin Garrett's first stint with the team. With Butler expected to miss the coming weeks due to a meniscus injury, Towns will have to carry the bulk of the responsibility to keep Minnesota holding onto home court advantage through the first round of the playoffs.
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