While much of the focus has been on Russell Westbrook’s quest to become the first player to record a season-long triple double since Oscar Robertson in the 1961-1962 season, James Harden is putting up absurd numbers for the Houston Rockets.
Harden, who is a sure-fire MVP candidate, has averaged 29.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and an NBA-leading 11.2 assists while leading the Rockets to a 49-22 record.
Those numbers are outstanding and in any other year, Harden would be the clear frontrunner for the MVP honor.
Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for NBA fans everywhere), Westbrook, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard have been incredible this season.
However, there is a major differentiator between Harden and his competition in the MVP race. Consider the following.
That’s right. He’s had 25 games so far this year of 30-plus points and 10-plus assists. The next highest mark of such games is Westbrook with 19.
Not only is Harden Houston’s top scoring option, but he shoulders the load of the entire offense, also serving as the team’s top facilitator. In fact, he’s the NBA’s leading assist man this year in first-year Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo scheme. That same scheme turned Steve Nash into a superstar with the Phoenix Suns and it's obvious that Harden has benefitted from the fast pace all season long.
On Monday, he dropped 39 points and had seven rebounds and 11 assists in a 125-124 victory over the Denver Nuggets. He also hit a game-winning basket on a coast-to-coast drive with just 2.4 seconds remaining. Check out that play below.
That was too easy. While the Nuggets’ defense was horrible, it was also obvious that Harden was on a whole different level than anyone else on the court in the game. With 56 double-doubles and 19 triple-doubles in 71 games, Harden’s consistency is indicative of his intense passion for the game.
"I'm a hooper," Harden told reporters after the game. "I just want to hoop. I'll rest when I'm done. I feel like my teammates and organization need me to go out there and do what I do. I get obviously paid for it, but it's something I love. I enjoy the grind. I enjoy how hard it is. I think that makes you tougher. That makes you who you are.”
It will be interesting to see which way MVP voters go at the end of the year, but Harden has certainly made his case. If anyone is able to beat out a season-long triple-double, it will be him.