Written by: Drew Zlogar (@Drew_Zlogar)
James Harden has been one of the league’s best offensive players for several years now. This season however, the leader of the Rockets has blossomed into an all around offensive beast. Over the weekend, Harden became the 2nd fastest player in NBA history to eclipse 1000 points and 500 assists in a single season (43 games played). A big difference in his even larger success this season has to be attributed to the offensive mastermind Mike D’Antoni taking over at head coach. D’Antoni coming into H-Town brings more offensive possessions as he operates a run-and-gun style of play; perfect for Harden. To go along with the high-paced play, D’Antoni moved Harden to the Point Guard, and boy has it paid off. It hasn’t been in Harden’s player description that he could be a reliable distributor in the league, yet, as the season is officially halfway through, Harden is the league leader in assists, at almost 12 a game (11.7apg). The points per game, which is a staple to his success in the NBA is also among the league leaders at 28.4, ranking him 3rd. Another stat that might be the most impressive of them all is that he already has 11 triple-doubles this year, second to only Russell Westbrook.
It is virtually a two-man race for the MVP this season between Harden and Westbrook. Westbrook is averaging a triple-double this season (19 overall), and first overall in points per game (30.9 ppg). For the Thunder’s purposes, they win when Westbrook has a triple-double. But since they aren’t a true force to be reckoning with in the West at just 25-19, Harden becomes the deserving man for the MVP. Harden had to transform into a Point Guard this season which he has made look easy, and his points per game didn’t take a hit during the process. His play has vaulted Houston to 32-11 overall and third in the Western Conference. Going into the year, it seemed like it was going to be another two team race in the West per usual between San Antonio and Golden State, but Houston is right there with them. The main objective in sports is to win, and is the main reason why Harden should get the nod for MVP over Westbrook. The numbers are off the charts individually for Westbrook, but it hasn’t made them a threat in the West. Harden, with numbers just a bit under that of Westbrook has his team looking like a real contender to represent the Western Conference this spring. It might come as a surprise to some that I take Harden, but as the great NFL coach Herm Edwards once famously said, “You play to win the game!” which Harden is doing.