Can James Harden win the MVP this season?

Patrick Beverley thinks so.  The no-brainer choice as the frontrunner would be Russell Westbrook not just because you can see him obliterating every usage and shot attempt record in existence, but also because if the Thunder have any degree of success this year, the media will be all over the narrative.  Durant and Curry would seem to cancel each other out and I see Lebron taking an even greater step back to save himself for the stretch run.  Anthony Davis would be a natural choice if the Pelicans could manage to not be horrible, leaving you with just Chris Paul and Blake Griffin who will both be injured for extended periods.

That brings us to Harden, who, despite producing at historic levels in 2016, couldn’t even make his way onto an All-NBA team.  Remember when the Rockets were lovable?  Does Dwight Howard leaving remove the stench of negativity that had been surrounding this team?  Many of you seem to think so, but I’m wondering if people hate Harden for Harden, or if people just hate anything associated with Dwight Howard.  Because people definitely hate Dwight Howard.

Harden’s numbers figure to be even loftier this season given that he’ll have a coach who, in theory, will know how to amplify his strengths and, more importantly, will for the first time during his Rockets career, be surrounded by actual shooters.  I don’t think anyone will be surprised if he averages something like 31 points and 10 assists.  But to get consideration for the award, more than just team success, he’ll have to work to erase the narrative surrounding his defense.  It was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be, given the nightly vines highlighting his deficiencies.  But it was no doubt bad and will need to improve.

And this brings me to my final point, one which I’ve been wanting to get off my chest since the Finals, but hadn’t had the opportunity.  This summer, we saw Steph Curry’s teammates step up in ways unimaginable to Rockets fans.  That Warriors team doesn’t even get to the Finals if Klay Thompson doesn’t put on one of the most cold-blooded shooting displays in playoff history.  And lets not even mention what Draymond Green did in the deciding game of the Finals in a losing effort (32 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists).  The point is, the other Warriors are really, really good, and in that system, almost superstars in their own right.  But in 2015, I was ridiculed as a homer for making the case for Harden and directed towards Curry’s on/off differentials as reason why he was the worthy MVP.  Now, the numbers don’t lie: Curry’s presence made his teammates better.  But Curry at least had teammates capable of being lifted to such heights.  Without Harden, the Rockets are a bottom-feeder.  With him, his teammates merely looked competent.  Want to know how I know Houston would have been blown out in a critical game had Harden gone 6-19 like Curry did in Game 7 rather than losing by just four points?  Because that’s what happened every time Harden didn’t play out of his mind against a good team.

James Harden should have won the 2015 MVP.  If he changes the narrative, he has a chance again this season.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

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