On 4/1/15, James Harden posted a new career-high with 51 points against the Kings in a 115-111 win for the Rockets.
It made history.
Harden, already one of the front-runners for the prestigious MVP award, strengthened it greatly. Against the Kings, he shot 16-25 (64%) from the field and 8-9 (88.9%) for three, not to mention his 11-13 showing from the charity stripe. The Beard added 8 rebounds and 6 assists in this historic showing.
Why is it historic, you ask? Well, Harden is the first player in Rockets history to ever score 50+ points twice in a single season. He is also one of four Rockets players to ever have reached the 50 point plateau at least twice.
The other three? Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone, and Elvin Hayes. The common feature between the incredible hoopers? They are all Hall Of Famers. Remember, Harden is still just 25 years old!
Harden’s style of play consists with hard drives to the cup, smooth step-back jumpers, and launching threes. He had carried the Rockets in the tough-as-nails Western Conference, hovering around 2nd and 3rd seed. All this without star center Dwight Howard, who has now missed 40 games this season, more than all his previous seasons combined (36).
The Bearded One boasts the most 30+ (33) and 40+ (9) games this season. He is also tied for 1st with two 50 point games this season (Kyrie Irving is the other competitor). He posts a 18.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement, which tracks how many less wins a team would have if that player had been replaced with an average player. Example: The Rockets would have 18.3 less wins if Harden had been replaced with an average shooting guard).
That 18.3 mark beats out the entire league, including fellow MVP candidates Stephen Curry (17.6), LeBron James (14.15), and Russell Westbrook (11.66).
However, it’s not just media and fans who believe Harden should go home with the esteemed MVP trophy. Two star players, Anthony Davis and Dwyane Wade, have both suggested that Harden should win MVP. The former is a MVP candidate himself.
Harden’s consistency is another matter by itself. Previous to the aforementioned Kings contest, Harden had been trailing Russell Westbrook by 0.4 points in the scoring race. Now, the two megastars are tied at 27.6 points per game.
There is a glaring difference between the two. Harden has played 74 games and missed only one, due to a suspension for kicking LeBron James in the no-no spot. He is averaging 36.9 minutes per game, tied for second. The Rockets are sitting pretty tied for the second seed in the West.
However, Westbrook has played 14 fewer games (60) and his team, the OKC Thunder, are only in the 8th seed. Westbrook actually posts a negative DRPM (Defensive Real Plus-Minus). Harden is not a defensive savant, but is a serviceable defender for the Rockets.
That said, Steph Curry is still the favorite for the MVP award, and probably always will be for the 2014-2015 season. The baby-faced assassin is a fan favorite and is the best player on the best team. Curry has done more with more [help], Westbrook has done less with less, but no one except James Harden has done more with less.
Curry might be the MVP favorite, but he better be cautious of a bearded bull charging at him. A bearded bull that can score 51 points.
All stats accurate as of April 3rd, 2015
Kevin writes articles, and loves bulls. Especially the scruffy ones.