Houston Rockets: James Harden is chasing history

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Jasear Thompson/NBAE via Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Jasear Thompson/NBAE via Getty Images) /

If there is anything history has taught us, it is that it doesn’t repeat itself when it comes to the NBA MVP award. Can Rockets’ star James Harden win MVP again?

The season is coming close to an end as the Rockets are coming down to their final 8 games of the campaign. Since the All-star break, the team has gone 14-3. Largely attributed to a healthy and full roster for the most part, Houston has been able to develop some chemistry during this run and have move up in the standings where they currently sit in 3rd.

The biggest story lines for the season at this point of time are the same as previous seasons before: How will the playoff picture look  prior to the start of the postseason, and who will run away with the MVP award this season?

After Paul George entered the conversation a couple weeks ago due to an impressive stretch of games that played a significant role in the team’s success at the time, the list for the award has narrowed down to two candidates, James Harden & Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Harden, the reigning MVP, has been a part of the historical conversation that NBA folks love to have. He is currently averaging 36.36 PPG for the season and will finish as the scoring champion for the second season in a row. Historically, Harden currently sits 7th on the list of NBA/ABA Single Season Leaders & Records for PPG. Below, is a table of the current picture with Harden on the list:

As you can see, Wilt Chamberlain owns 5 of the 6 top records. After exploring the details behind these historical seasons, I was able to calculate how many points Harden would need in order to eclipse some of his competition. Some of the figures are comical, specifically Harden’s PPG needed in the final 8 games to pass up Wilt Chamberlain’s 50.36 PPG season.

Although it isn’t far-fetched for Harden to chase Wilt for the 4th spot, Harden realistically will end up finishing anywhere from 5th – 7th depending on his offensive performance during these last 8 games. Among the top 10 records, Kobe Bryant’s 2005-2006 campaign was the only recent player who made the list. Considering the relevance of that season and how it is still discussed among NBA fans, Harden will end up finishing well ahead of Kobe’s record and it should put things in perspective for those comparing Giannis and Harden’s seasons this year.

There will never be a defined criteria for what makes a player the league’s MVP as we have seen distinct but nevertheless impressive seasons by those who have won it. More recently, in the past 5 years we have witnessed different narratives that ultimately decided who would take home the award. In the end, it boils down to two things: numbers and winning.

While Giannis is having a spectacular season and will likely end up on the team with the best record in the league, Harden’s historical season along with the success his team is having makes it extremely difficult to not award him for it.

Both candidates deserve the award. If we use Westbrook’s 2016-2017 season as a reference to compare the two candidates, Harden’s historical markers that he is making will help him take home the award. If we use Steph Curry’s 2014-2015 as a reference, Giannis will win it off the strength of his team’s top record in the league along with the impressive numbers he is posting.

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However, Harden’s rare combination of numbers & winning is unique because he was able to drag his team from the gutter earlier this season while posting scoring streaks and simultaneously helping the Rockets climb up in the standings. If there is anything history has taught us, it is that is doesn’t repeat itself when it comes to the NBA MVP award.