James Harden hasn’t lost much ground in the MVP race

Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images /

Despite missing the last five games, James Harden hasn’t lost too much ground in the MVP race.

The first third of the NBA season went extraordinarily well for James Harden and the Houston Rockets.

Not only is Harden leading the NBA in points at 32.3 per game, but he’s also leading the league in 3-pointers made per game and he’s second in assists. Houston has the second best record in the West and they’ve had the best record in the conference for the bulk of the season.

Harden lost out on the MVP Award in the 2014-15 season and in the 2016-17 season. So after his hot start in the 2017-18 season, Rockets Nation thought that The Beard was going to run away with the MVP award.

But unfortunately, injuries happen. Harden, along with Chris Paul, Clint Capela, Nene and Luc Mbah a Moute have missed a lot of games this year. This has caused Houston’s performance, especially on defense, to slip.

The Rockets have won just four of their last eleven games, and Harden has sat out of the last five. Harden’s hamstring will be re-evaluated next week, and there is hope that he could return sooner rather than later, but the Rockets haven’t provided a concrete timetable.

Related Story: Houston Rockets: James Harden is getting closer to returning

While a lot of players around the NBA are having strong seasons, no one has overtaken Harden as the clear leader in the MVP race.

James Harden is still the favorite to win MVP

If Harden doesn’t miss a substantial amount of time, he will still be the favorite for the MVP Award when he returns. Of course, there are a few other MVP candidates that are worth talking about.

LeBron James, who is clearly No. 2 in the MVP race, is having one of the best seasons of his career. Now in his 15th year, The King is averaging 27.2 points, the most since the 2009-10 season, his final year during his first stint in Cleveland. He’s also averaging 8.2 rebounds and a career high 9.0 assists per game, and he’s shooting a blistering 55.8 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc. But James hasn’t made up much ground on Harden lately, because the Cavs have won just two of their last seven games and LeBron is averaging just 21.6 points over that stretch.

Both Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are also in the MVP conversation, as the Warriors have the best record in the NBA. Stephen Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists as he has returned to his MVP form this year. Kevin Durant is also having another solid season, putting up 26.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists and a career high 2.2 blocks per game. They’re both having excellent seasons, but LeBron is clearly ahead of both of them in the MVP race, and obviously we can say the same thing for James Harden.

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Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo are also in the MVP conversation, but neither one is a top-3 candidate for MVP at the moment. Irving’s Celtics have the best record in the East and the second best record in the NBA. Kyrie is averaging 24.1 points and 5.0 assists on 48.0 percent shooting from the floor this year. Those stats are great, but they don’t pop off of the stat sheet like the numbers from Harden and James.

As for Giannis, he’s averaging 28.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists on 55.5 percent shooting from the field. But the Milwaukee Bucks have just a 22-18 record and hold the sixth spot in the East. If you take away Russell Westbrook’s MVP campaign from last year, you’d be hard-pressed to find another MVP whose team finished outside of the top three in his respective conference.

Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook will probably receive some MVP considerations down the road, but their chances of winning the award are little to none. Because of LeBron’s struggles in Cleveland, Harden is still the favorite in the MVP race.

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Of course, Harden could miss another one to three weeks, and things could change between now and then. But if the MVP Award was handed out this week, there isn’t a more deserving player than The Beard.