Houston Rockets point/shooting guard James Harden has been building a strong case to win back to back Most Valuable Player honors in the NBA all season long with his incredible play and scoring prowess. The last player to do so was Golden State Warriors’ shooting/point guard Stephen Curry, who won the award in consecutive years in the 2015 and 2016 season.
After recording a double-double with 58 points and 10 assists last night in the team’s 121-118 comeback win over the surging Miami Heat, Harden is considered a front runner to bring home the accolade for a second straight year.
The game against the Heat marked the sixth time this season that he has reached and surpassed the 50-point threshold. The man known as simply “The Beard” has been lighting it up offensively on the floor for the Rockets and keeping the team in contention for a playoff berth while other key members of the team have been nursing injuries.
Harden himself was dealing with a sore shoulder in the midst of his record-breaking scoring tear for the team when he was chasing Wilt Chamberlain's record for most consecutive games in which he has scored at least 30 points. While he did leapfrog Wilt for second-most all-time, his streak came to an end at 32 straight games when he came up two points shy for extending it in the team’s 119-111 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
Opposing teams have to fear “The Beard” every time he steps on the court because he has the ability to completely take over a game and drop a flurry of buckets quick fast and in a hurry. The team can be down a few possessions or even by a double-digit deficit, but once Harden gets hot and his shots start to fall, it nearly impossible to cool him down.
Once the spigot is turned on, he can make it rain from anywhere on the court. He’s averaging nearly 37 points a game and is shooting just over 36 percent from three-point range this year. The other two players considered to be in contention with him for the MVP race is Milwaukee Bucks star small/power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s small/power forward Paul George.
While both of those players are having fantastic seasons in their own right, neither of them has had to carry their teams in the way that Harden has this season. George plays with former league MVP Russel Westbrook and the “Greek Freak” plays on the team with the best record in the league and firmly sit atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Harden has often been forced to be a one-man band for a hobbled Rockets team that currently sits in the fifth spot in the Western Conference standings and is getting healthy at the right time. The award won’t be officially announced until this summer but look for Harden to continue to state his claim for the MVP award even if he doesn’t have to use herculean efforts to keep his team afloat.