Coming into the 2018/19 NBA Season, there were a lot of questions surrounding the Houston Rockets and James Harden. Following a disastrous Conference Finals Game Seven against the Warriors, coupled with a lacklustre start to the 2019 season, Harden, the Rockets and their ISO-focused offence were under severe scrutiny. A Harden-led Rockets team were 9-11 and had just come out of a four game losing streak to end November.
Coming into December, Harden had been averaging an impressive 31.9 points per game, maintaining his position as an elite scorer in the NBA. The best was yet to come.
Beginning in the month of December, Harden began a tirade against NBA defences. From 8th December against the Dallas Mavericks, the lowest point total Harden had was 29. Harden went on to average 35.1 points per game in December. At the time of writing this, the end of January 2019, Harden is averaging 36.3 points per game. The shooting guard has currently broken into a very exclusive club of only two members – Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. We are witnessing history.
Throughout the Rockets season Harden has had little to no help. Carmelo Anthony provided very little and was off the team unofficially by November, officially by January. Chris Paul and Clint Capella have been unable to contribute due to being sidelined with injury. The recent acquisition of Austin Rivers has helped, averaging 8.6 points. Eric Gordon has been his usual steady self. Houston being forced to play journeyman veteran Kenneth Faried at starting centre recently.
The extent in which Harden has been ‘carrying’ the Rockets on his back can best be summed up when analysing Harden’s unassisted points. From 13th January to 28th January, Harden scored 304 unassisted points. The streak was snapped when Harden scored a floater off a pass from Kenneth Faried against the Orlando Magic.
Harden’s display of excellence will live on in NBA lore forever. His one-man quest to bring success to his franchise is reminiscent of LeBron James in 2017/18, Russell Westbrook in 2016/17, Kobe Bryant 2005/06 and Michael Jordan 1986/87.
In terms of the MVP discussion, the conversation is all but over. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic are having remarkable seasons. But when your name is being displayed alongside His Airness and Chamberlain, the conversation is over. James Harden is the MVP. Just sit back, relax and witness history.