Image from: Elizabeth Conley/Staff Photographer Houston Chronicle
Although Houston started off very rough the one man that has kept them going is the reigning MVP. It’s time to start thinking about a back to back MVP run for James Harden who has been a complete scoring machine this season. He has led Houston from being 14th in the Western Conference to 4th. In a recent 12 game span, Houston has won 11 games. Yes, you can say what you want about all the viral memes towards his stepback or how he gets blown by on isolation defense, but Harden is eyeing a back to back MVP with extreme confidence. Not to mention he has five triple-doubles three including 40+ points, and in recent games has gone five straight with 40 points or more.
Harden told Bleacher Report “Of course I should be in that conversation. I mean, I receive a lot of hate, but it won’t stop me from going out there and killing every single night, being that dog that I am.” It definitely has not stopped Harden who recently joined elite company averaging a league-leading 33.3 points per contest, the highest scoring average since Bryant’s 35.4 points per game in 2005-06. With Chris Paul and Eric Gordon out for a bit of time, the people of Houston are definitely glad to see Harden putting on a complete show whether it is with his stroke behind the arc, tomahawk dunks, or even driving to the rim collecting fouls. Harden currently averages 14.9 FT per game, but on Monday he found himself at the line 27 times. His message for teams is “Stop fouling me” which seems simple, but it really isn’t when Harden can shoot from anywhere he wants and finish with either hand.
Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has high praise for Harden. He told Bleacher Report “I don’t know how you get any better than what he’s playing,” and even spoke on Harden’s defensive side of the ball which is targeted a lot on social media “Defensively, too. He comes up with steals, triple-doubles like it’s nothing. So, yeah, he’s playing at a different level.” D’Antoni is not lying either, in the most recent 12 games Harden averages 39.7 points, 8.5 assists, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 5.5 made three-pointers per game. However, once voting for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy begins critics will not forget the horrible start Houston began the season with, so Harden will need to take the Rockets to a top 3 seed in the Western Conference like he did last year when Houston had the best record in basketball at 65-17. Harden will look to continue his amazing run at another MVP trophy as well as take Houston to a top seed in the playoffs, but with such a tight race in the West does Harden have the tools in his bag to make that push.