Mar 16, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) runs up court during the second half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
James Harden in his two seasons with the Houston Rockets has established himself as one of the top 2-guards in the NBA. If it weren’t for his sub-par defense, many would be quick to proclaim him as the best shooting guard in the league. But the MVP award isn’t typically one that revolves around defense. It plays a role to be sure, but team success is the most important, and if Harden can increase the Rockets’ chance of winning a title while stringing together a 60-win season, the award is his.
Not really, and Vegas doesn’t think so either.
James Harden is listed at 22/1 to win the MVP, which ranks behind Kevin Love (20/1), Carmelo Anthony (15/1), Chris Paul (14/1), Derrick Rose (10/1), Blake Griffin (9/1), Kevin Durant (11/4) and LeBron James (7/5).
Two things stick out from that list:
1) Derrick Rose is the fourth most-likely to win the award and hasn’t played a meaningful game in two-plus seasons. He didn’t look good in the FIBA championships, he still had some soreness in the knee…he needed time off to rest his sore knees, and he didn’t look happy or dominant. He showed just enough flashes to sucker people into betting on those 10/1 odds, which are not good really, nor any sort of value bet. While Rose may have been the youngest MVP in NBA history, it is dubious as to whether he can ever attain to that level of play again.
2) Kevin Durant is due to win this award….again. He’s a three-time scoring champ and OKC is in it every year. Despite that, he’s far less likely, at least according to Vegas, to take the award than LBJ.
If Harden had remained in OKC, there would likely be no chance at all. Teammate Russell Westbrook is at 50/1, despite his dominant role in the offense. If anything keeps Durant from winning this award, unfortunately, it is his ball dominant teammate.
All these things noted, Harden is still unlikely to win the award, but a case could definitely be made that he has a far better chance than Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, and even the two Clippers listed in front of him. This is, of course, splitting hairs since Kevin Durant or LBJ are likely to take it home. James has already won the award three times, however.
Typically media voters look to spread the wealth, and since James won it in 2012-13, it stands to reason that Durant has his chance this year, to earn his second MVP title.
But, if Harden can turn in some other-worldly performance, he could take it. It’s not out of the realms of possibility, but it is definitely unlikely enough to warrant the 22/1 odds given to Harden.