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Has Harden Cemented His MVP Status?

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Since James Harden arrived in Brooklyn, he has been the best player in basketball.

A lot of people may consider this hyperbole, but the numbers support the claim. The MVP award problem is that there are usually two-to-four legit candidates, and this year is no different. However, we have seen injuries sideline two candidates that many would consider frontrunners for the award in LeBron James and Joel Embiid. So with the season just about 50% done, who stands in the best position to take home the MVP award?

No matter how you gauge it, the MVP shortlist should include LeBron, Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Harden to this point in the season. Considering the injuries, we can narrow the list down to Jokic, Giannis and Harden. So of the three, who is most poised to win it, and why is your answer James Harden?

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James Harden’s MVP Season Was Far From A Guarantee

Harden began the 2020-2021 season in a less-than-ideal situation in Houston. He made it known that he would like to be traded before the season started. Harden also violated Covid protocols leading up to the season, causing him to miss a few games. He reported to the Rockets out of shape, and his play on the court wasn’t near the standard he has set for himself. It was apparent to everyone that he was forcing the Rockets’ hand, and eventually, his wish was granted.

Before he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets, The Beard played only eight games for the Rockets. These eight games are what critics are claiming as the reason Harden shouldn’t be in consideration for the MVP award. In one of these eight contests, Harden scored 44 points and 17 assists against Portland. The very next game, the Beard poured in 34 more points and eight more assists. He followed up that performance with 33 points and eight assists. Eventually, Harden’s play on the court with the Rockets began to resemble a man who checked out. Before Harden was traded, Houston lost six of the eight games he played in. 

Harden’s Departure From Houston is Bigger Than Forcing A Trade

James has received an assortment of criticism over the year for his style of play. The fact of the matter is he has led the league in scoring the last three years and has previously led the league in assists. If the point of the game is to put the basketball in the hoop, you won’t find a player more adept at doing it than James. 

Individually, his accolades bear that he is an all-time great and top-three pure offensive threat of our generation. So with nothing to gain individually, is it wrong that Harden wanted to make a move for his legacy? We know all too well what would happen if Harden continued to put up video-game numbers with no ring to cement his legacy. From my purview, the media wants their cake a certain way.

Media members have no qualms about diminishing a player’s greatness because they don’t have rings. These same media members are dissatisfied when players take their legacy into their own hands. While Harden’s exit from Houston wasn’t ideal, it’s unfair to suggest he doesn’t fit the award criteria because of what transpired from 12/26-1/12. A total of eight games where he scored more than 30 three times and posted double-doubles another three times.

The bottom line is if we are talking about production on the basketball court, Harden’s brief play in Houston this year should not derail his campaign. 

How Was Harden’s Initial Adjustment To Brooklyn

Many think pieces were suggesting that Harden was not going to work in Brooklyn. It seems like ages ago that the popular take was that “there is only one basketball.” No one gave Harden enough credit to adjust and flourish with the additional superstars lessening the load. Many people who follow the NBA know that Harden is the best scorer in the NBA. His last three seasons indicate that effortlessly as he has led the league in scoring in each of those seasons. So how will he adjust playing with two other premier scorers of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant‘s elk?

Harden adjusted by deferring and becoming the best point guard in the NBA. His passing exploits were always evident, but I’m sure many people didn’t see this coming. He is running away with the league lead in assists posting an absurd average of 11.1 per game.

Additionally, Harden is averaging 25 points per game as well as eight rebounds per game. All of these averages factor in the dismal effort he gave for Houston earlier in the season that many believe should keep him off of ballots. It looks like Harden’s move to Brooklyn gave his career the jolt he wanted.

In an article earlier in the year, we detailed how Harden set out to change his career narrative. Here we are, three months later, and he appears James Harden is doing just that as he is cementing his status as the MVP of this league.

Harden Out to Change His Career Narrative in Brooklyn

James Harden Has Been This League’s MVP

With Harden in the lineup, the Brooklyn Nets are 23-8. This stretch happened as Kevin Durant missing extended time related to contact tracing for Covid protocols and his hamstring strain. Also, you must factor in Kyrie missing time with the hiatus he took earlier in the year and his load management throughout the run the Nets have been on.

So sure, Harden was last to the party as a member of the Nets Big Three. However, Harden has been by far the biggest reason why the Nets sit one game behind the 76ers for the East’s best record. 

So while you may not like how he left things in Houston, the MVP award is about what player is the most valuable to a team in prime contention. Had it not been for James Harden, the Nets would not be in their current position. Further, their claim as title favorites would not have the luster it currently does if The Beard didn’t go out of his way to prove to the league that he is more than a scoring machine. If focusing on public relations is what we want to do, perhaps James has something to worry about.

If we are talking about basketball reasons, James Harden is the MVP of the league.

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