James Harden Wins January Player of Month
For the second consecutive month James Harden has won the Western Conference KIA Player of the Month. Following up his December win by once again dominating offensively scoring an average of 25.8 points per game and registering 7-games of 30 or more points. In addition he shot close to 43% from behind the arc (42.6%) while shooting 47.6% from the field. Harden continues to improve defensively as his 4.7 rebounds and 7 assists per game attest to.
December was the month he carried the team in the absence of fellow star Dwight Howard and then helped with the transition of his return. Conversely January was more notable for his offensive prowess.specifically in games where his scoring and assists were the difference in the victories. As a team the Rockets recorded an 11-6 win-loss record and faced some stiff competition. Their wins over Oklahoma City, Portland and Memphis were highlights.
Moving forward the fact Harden has won back to back monthly accolades bodes well for his potential to win the Most Valuable Player Award. The Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry has been his biggest competition to date, but has arguably more talent on his team.
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What may give Harden the edge on the MVP is the fact he is having to carry so much of the load this season.
This will once again be the case as the other Houston franchise star Howard is set to miss at least a month following a bone marrow aspirate injection yesterday. In Howard’s first absence (due to the same right knee), Harden led Houston to an 8-3 record.
This time around won’t be as simple as the Rockets next 10 opponents are plus .500 teams and feature some of the league best performers. Even the two teams sub .500 teams in this stretch aren’t typically low end teams given Ricky Rubio has returned from injury to Minnesota and Brooklyn seem to have finally found an on-court chemistry.
If Harden can lead the Rockets to maintain a home court seed during this stretch it would go a long way to cementing him winning MVP.
The other Player of the Month winner for January is unique in that it was given to the entire starting five of the Atlanta Hawks who registered the first unbeaten month by a team in the NBA. It’s rather fitting the squad were awarded this merit as a team given they accomplished the unbeaten January as such.
The Rookies of the Month saw a repeat as well in the West with Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves claiming his second consecutive win behind an impressive month of growth. The number one overall draft pick was joined by Elfrid Payton of the Orlando Magic who won in the East.