Ralph and I touched on this a bit during Thursday's pod, but after Harden got quadruple-teamed against Atlanta and failed to extend his 30-point streak, the media stopped talking about him. No more deep dives into the history of his run, why he should be MVP, or how the Rockets might be the only Western Conference team with a legitimate shot to take down the Warriors. I won't stand for this sacrilegious (lack of) coverage towards the best player in the league (this season), so with that being said, here's a list of why Harden is still the league MVP.
(All stats as of 3/12/2019)
1. There have only been two instances since December 11, 2018 in which James Harden has failed to score at least 30 points: Sunday night against the Mavericks (he scored 20) and 2/25 against the Hawks, the game that ended his historic 30-point streak.
2. He's currently averaging 36.2 points per game, nearly 8 points higher than the league's number-two scorer, Paul George. Harden doesn't even need to score for the remainder of the season to take home the scoring title; that's absurd.
3. The Rockets are (finally) healthy for the first time this season and they're in the midst of a nine-game win streak (the longest current streak in the league). During this stretch they've defeated the Sixers, Celtics, Raptors, and Warriors (without Harden), and they're currently the third seed in the West. They're only 1.5 and 3.5 games back of the Nuggets and Warriors, respectively, and it doesn't seem impossible for them to overtake either of those places. The wins against Boston, Toronto, and Philly were by double-digits! This is the stretch of the season that proves who's really ready to compete in the playoffs, and the Rockets are shining in the spotlight. I can't wait for April, NBA Playoffs > March Madness.
4. I saw this on Reddit today and it blew my mind. I'm of the mindset that Harden should be getting his third (or fourth) straight MVP this season because of his sheer offensive dominance over this stretch of his career, and the stats from those seasons don't lie. What he's doing this year compared to his MVP campaign last season is utterly preposterous:
5. Going off of the above picture, HARDEN AVERAGED ALMOST 44 POINTS PER GAME FOR A WHOLE MONTH. Who does that nowadays? Fuckin' James Harden, that's who.
6. If the Rockets beat the Warriors tomorrow night, they'll complete a 4-0 regular season sweep against the team that stopped Harden and Co. one game short of reaching the Finals last year. I always forget that Harden has played in the Finals before, that honestly seems like it was so long ago. Hopefully this year he can get back because a) it'd be awesome for Chris Paul (and his and Harden's legacies) to win a ring and b) Houston has a great chance at taking down Golden State IMO and they match up pretty well against the Eastern Conference contenders.
7. The fact that Harden was able to score 30 points in 32-straight games in 2019 is mind-boggling. Wilt Chamberlain is the only other player in the top-five for consecutive games of over 30 points, the only difference is that he was doing it in the early 1960s. Harden is having the best offensive season ever and people are choosing to claim he relies too heavily on free throws and push the false narrative that he's still a bad defender. EMBRACE GREATNESS!
8. Harden has a True Shooting Percentage of 61.1% while rocking a usage rate of 39.3% (trailing only Russell Westbrook during his MVP season, even though Harden should've won it that year). I don't think I have to explain how insane it is that Harden is able to score at such an efficient rate while being used almost constantly when he's on the floor. Just about every play has to go through him, and he's become other-worldly at creating his own offense. Speaking of which...
9. 87.1% of his field goals are scored unassisted. Harden literally doesn't need anybody around him to help facilitate his baskets, he could go 5v1 and probably be OK. He's beyond crafty, and his ability to create sheer amounts of space is unlike anyone in the league today. Call his Step Back a travel all you want, but he's not getting called for it and it's working. All the more power to Harden.
10. For some reason I can't find the exact numbers, but Harden eclipsed his own record for most unassisted threes in a season and might've set the record for most ever. Don't quote me on that, though.
11. Pre-Game Tunnel Fits
12. James Harden has SIX 50-point games this season; no other player has more than one.
13. We quite literally may never see a season-long performance as offensively dominant as Harden's 2018-19. He had to go for a long stretch sans CP3 and Clint Capela and instead of crumbling under seemingly hapless circumstances, Harden went full superhero and torched every defense in his path. The stats are there, the film is there; I don't have much else to use to convince you that Harden is the MVP if you aren't already on the train. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George have very legitimate cases for the award, but if we're going based on the most valuable to team success, James Harden is in a league of his own.