There is more controversy surrounding James Harden than perhaps any other player in basketball.
His leadership is constantly questioned. He’s often called a ball hog. Critics constantly harp on his foul-drawing play style. The James Harden hate has even made its way to criticizing his shoe line (granted, Adidas should make some major changes to the ones that were leaked).
One thing that isn’t argued about The Beard, however, is his game’s effectiveness. He is able to draw enough fouls to where it isn’t the end of the world if he has a bad shooting night. To validate that claim, he once scored 50 points while only making 12 field goals that game. He just also happened to shoot an astounding 22-25 from the free throw line.
Harden’s teammates and supporters have made recent claims that he’ll have a great season and win MVP. Some people write off that idea immediately, but it may not be as crazy as it seems. Every bit of the Houston Rockets offense runs through him, so he’s incredibly valuable to his team without even looking at their record.
Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web
In a piece assessing every team’s franchise player, Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal wrote that Harden’s productivity is so great that it outweighs his flaws on defense. If he picks up the effort on that end of the floor this season, he’ll already have a strong MVP case.
Houston would surely prefer that Harden showed more commitment on defense, but it can afford to live with his flaws because his offense is just that good.
How good? According to NBA Math’s total points added, he finished with the league’s No. 4 overall score despite finishing in the red for his defense.
Like I mentioned before, not everyone is on board with The Beard as an MVP candidate. In a video from NBA.com, Dennis Scott and Rick Kamla discuss the likelihood of that scenario taking place. If he doesn’t improve on defense, as they point out, his chances of leading the Rockets to success will be significantly lowered.
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While many people in the media criticize Harden, Houston GM Daryl Morey has made it clear that that’s not the case with him. According to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports, Morey only believes Harden is criticized by people who don’t watch basketball.
But Morey also put his money where his mouth is. The Rockets will pay Harden an extra $20 million over the next two seasons just to get him locked up one extra year – and that extra year will cost about a max salary.
For better or worse, the Rockets are all in with Harden.
While it’s still a bit of a long shot, James Harden winning MVP isn’t out of the question. If he leads the new Rockets to a respectable playoff seed, critics will have no choice but to put his name in consideration.
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