Two weeks ago if you had told me James Harden would be firmly in the MVP conversation I would have laughed as would most NBA fans.
But after one of the more ridiculous individual performances for a month in recent memory and a 7-1 record for Houston the last 8 games to get them back on track, Harden is playing the best basketball he ever has in his NBA career right now and is my current pick for the most valuable player.
Watching the Christmas game against Oklahoma City while eating a scrumptious roast beef sandwich, Harden’s value was clear in a matchup against a team with two superstars.
Harden’s presence is so valuable to Houston that we saw new Rockets’ acquisition Austin Rivers freeze in time on national TV.
After the ridiculous MVP campaign last season in which the team was a game away from the NBA Finals (I 110% believe if Chris Paul was not injured for Game 7, Houston would have beat Golden State) we would have thought that the ceiling had been reached for Harden.
After the first month of the season where Houston struggled with key losses such as Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson (Anderson is getting healthy DNP’s in Phoenix but his spacing alone made a difference) the odds of Harden entering himself in the MVP conversation were slim.
But in the blink of an eye, James “the bearded barnacle bad man” Harden has flipped the script 180 and has been unguardable every night.
Whether it’s the art of drawing shooting fouls night in and night out, consistently hitting thirty foot 3 point shots with a hand right in his face, or his elite playmaking ability his value has been clear from closely watching his game this season even after the rocky start.
Now all of a sudden Harden is averaging a career high in PPG (his 32.3 average would be the most since Kobe Bryant in 2005-2006) and is shooting the most efficiently he ever has as a Houston Rocket.
The closest competition is Giannis Antetokounmpo. A favorite of mine, but there have been some flaws in his game shown this month (Miami completely shut him down for example) and although once he gets in the paint he is quite literally unstoppable, teams have shown that if you are somehow able to limit his play to the perimeter his effectiveness will go down.
That’s not the case with Harden. He’s unstoppable on all areas of the floor. Since November 13, he has scored less than 22 points just one time and his play as of late has emphasized the incredible style and flair that comes with his game.
There are other players who are firmly in the conversation as well. Stephen Curry probably would be the favorite had he not been injured for a period of time, Nikola Jokic will be a candidate if he can keep up the consistent level of play he has as of late, and Paul George is having a career year.
The month of December has truly been a work of art for Harden and he is my bonafide pick to win the MVP right now.