The question isn’t will James Harden win the NBA’s most valuable player award, it is will he be a unanimous choice? Only Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors has managed to receive all 130 votes. He achieved that in the 2015-2016 season.
There are rumors that the Houston Rocket will be the second. He has numbers similar to Curry’s when he took the honor. The Warriors guard joined the exclusive 50-40-90 club the year he won MVP. He was 50 percent from the field, 45 percent shooting 3-pointers, and 91 percent on free throws. He was the sixth person in NBA history to achieve that benchmark, joining Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant.
Harden most likely will not join that group this year, but his stats have been equally as impressive. He’s averaging 31 points a game, including 5.3 3-pointers. He also has 8.7 assists per game.
He is currently a -290 to win his first MVP award. The next closest is LeBron James at +275. Giannis Antetokounmpo follows at +1400, then Curry and Durant at +2000.
From Far Back to Frontrunner
Before the season began, Harden was the sixth favorite to be named the league’s best player at 8/1. Durant was the top pick at 4/1. The Warriors forward slipped to 9/2 early in the season, and James and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio rose to the top at 4/1.
It seemed like everyone was moving one way or another except for Harden. He stayed at 8/1. That’s when the Rockets went on a 14-game winning streak, and in two of those games Harden scored 50 points. or more. Media voters began to take notice.
Not even time on the bench, with a strained hamstring suffered on New Year’s Eve, could slow Harden’s momentum. He was gaining on the frontrunner, and after the All-Star Break, he took over as the top pick. His odds have only dropped since February.
DeMar DeRozan of the Tornoto Raptors told reporters a week ago before his team faced the Rockets that Harden was the most deserving player in the league for MVP.
“He earned it,” DeRozan said. “The things that he’s been doing all year are incredible. I think he’s a lock for it.”
What About Lebron?
It would take a lot for James to overtake Harden and win his fifth award. The Cleveland forward has several factors working against him.
First is time. There is less than a month remaining in the regular season and James would have to put up obscene numbers to sway voters. He currently is averaging 26.9 points a game, 9 assists and 8.5 rebounds. He would have to have a triple-double for the Cavaliers next 14 games.
Harden would have to have an epic fail in the Rockets remaining 14 games and a plunge in offensive production doesn’t seem likely. On Thursday the team defeated the LA Clippers and he scored 24 points, adding five rebounds and seven assists.