3. ESPN predicts Harden as 9th most-likely to win MVP
Prior to the start of the season ESPN conducted a roundtable discussion with their basketball analysts and made their preseason MVP rankings. Despite ESPN having their so-called experts as part of this discussion, they listed Houston Rockets guard James Harden as the ninth-most likely to win the MVP award.
Think about that for a second. Harden finished within the top two of the MVP ballot in each of the last three seasons, so it’s difficult to see where the ninth place finish came from. On top of that, Harden was coming off one of the best scoring seasons in NBA history, as he officially had the second-best scoring streak in NBA history, not to mention the fact that he finished with the fifth-most assists during the season.
But on top of that, were there really eight players who were better favorites than Harden to win the MVP? Many people have felt Harden is having a “bad year” in spite of the fact that he’s still leading the league in scoring, total win shares, and value over replacement player. On top of that, Harden has a true shooting percentage of 62 percent this season, which is the best he’s had since the 2011-12 season.
On top of that, Harden has had the same number of 50+ point games at this point in the season as he had through 55 games during the 2018-19 season. Through the first 55 games of the 2018-19 season, the Rockets went 32-23 compared to the 35-20 they’ve gone this season.
Although this may not seem like a big difference, we have to keep in mind that the Rockets have been without Eric Gordon for a significant amount of time this season, not to mention the fact that they’ve certainly had to get Russell Westbrook acclimated to their level of play.
On top of that, Russ has missed nine games this season, and Harden has been the only constant thus far. But it didn’t take any foreshadowing to know that ninth place was egregious.
Next: No. 2