BY: JOHN DELEON
James Harden is a ref-baiter. All he does is draw fouls and shoot free throws. He can’t put up those same numbers in the playoffs or lead a team to a championship. As part of #NBATwitter, I’ve heard and/or seen it all about last year’s MVP. Some of it may be true, but to quote Jay-Z, “men lie, women lie, NUMBERS don’t!” Harden’s last 5 games, he’s had 40+ points, adding his name to the history books alongside Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson, as players having 40+ points for 5 consecutive games. Those same 5 games are a part of 11 straight games with 30+ points streak. If he can continue at the current pace for two more games, Harden would add his name to the Rockets’ record books, alongside Moses Malone, who currently has the record for consecutive games of 30+ points, with 13 games.
A couple of nights ago, Harden and the Rockets knocked off the defending back-to-back champion Golden State Warriors and to add the cherry on top, finished it off with a 3-pointer to win the in overtime, over two of the Warriors’ better defenders, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The stat line for the night: 44 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds. The numbers that are also astounding: 35 points and five assists in each of the last eight games in December. Currently, Harden is averaging 33.3 points per game, tops for the NBA and ranks fourth in assists with 8.6 assists per game. The crazy thing with all of the numbers, is that the Rockets are 11-1 over the last 12 games, with Chris Paul missing the majority of those games with an injury to his hamstring.
The month of January looks promising for Harden to continue his dominance, being that the Nuggets, Bucks, Grizzlies and Raptors are the only teams that have any sense of a defensive approach to the game of basketball that the Rockets will be playing. February is more of the same, only having to see the Nuggets, Jazz, Thunder, Warriors out of 12 games. The month of March gets a little bit harder, playing the Celtics, Raptors, 78ers, Warriors, Spurs, Pelicans, Bucks, Nuggets, underrated Clippers and Thunder to finish off April.
The first returns from this year's NBA AllStar voting have been released and even though Harden might be on on of the biggest tears in NBA history, it isn't translating with the voting, Harden is currently behind Steph Curry (793,111) and Derrick Rose (698,086) for a guard position in the Western Conference. In terms of total votes, he'd currently fall 7th place, behind LeBron James (1,083,363), Steph Curry (793,111), Derrick Rose (698,086), Luka Doncic (679,839), Kevin Durant (659,968), Anthony Davis (605,417) and Paul George (580,055).
My NBA fandom of recent times was for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Favorite player is Kevin Durant. I was one of the very select few that wanted OKC to let Serge Ibaka walk. He had turned into Ray Ibaka or Serge Allen, believing he was more of a 3-point shooter or perimeter player than playing in the post and the solid defender that he had been in previous years. We all have our preferences. Mine for this particular set of circumstances was keeping 3 offensive-minded players, who could make plays for themselves just as well for others, shoot and rebound. Look at how perimeter oriented the game of basketball has become and Westbrook, Harden and KD fit the mold PERFECTLY! I kind of also wanted Harden to be the person with the ball in his hands, Westbrook play more off the ball and KD just continue to do what he was doing. I brought up my OKC fandom because Sam Presti, General Manager for the Oklahoma City Thunder, has drafted 3 out of the last 4 NBA MVP’s. He’s either a genius (the best bet) or didn’t know what he had in his proverbial hands (damn the salary cap!).
We’re about halfway through the season, so the playoffs are a still a few months away so only time will tell about the playoff numbers and eventual champion for 2019. But as of right now, if I had a vote to cast in the NBA MVP race, it would DEFINITELY have to go to James Edward Harden Jr.!
John DeLeon is a contributor at The Up & Under