James Harden is a man possessed right now. The Houston Rockets guard and reigning NBA MVP has scored 30 or more points in 18 straight games and has scored 115 points over his last two games. There is no one on the planet, better offensively than James Harden at this moment. But that doesn’t make him the MVP.
The MVP is not given to the “best” player, if it was Lebron James would be a 16-time MVP right now. The award is given to the player that shows the most value to his team. But the team has to be good, in order for it to be valuable.
Last year, Harden won the MVP, leading the league in scoring on a team that finished with the best record in the NBA. The year prior, Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double on a team with no all star caliber talent, and carried them to a 6 seed. Steph Curry won the MVP won the Warriors won 73 games, before Kevin Durant came on board. Do you see the pattern here?
Harden is playing out of his mind, but the Rockets are 6 games over .500 and currently 4th in the west. Without him, they wouldn’t make the playoffs, but with him how good are they really? How valuable is he really?
In my opinion, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the MVP. The Bucks finished 7th in the NBA last year and didn’t add any all star players to their roster this past off-season. Giannis is on pace for a historical season. No one in NBA history has ever averaged 26 ppg, 12.5 rpg, and 6 apg, which Giannis is on pace to do. The Bucks are on track to win 60 games and finish first in the East.
I don’t care for this “the east sucks” nonsense. The east is still the east and someone is still going to the NBA Finals from this conference. The Raptors, Celtics, Pacers and 76ers are all very good teams. Are they as good as some of the top teams in the west? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. But if the Bucks win 60 games, win the west and Giannis does finish with historic numbers, that is your NBA MVP for 2019.
Let’s look at some other candidates:
Lebron James – at this point, James has missed too many games due to injury to be considered, but it’s worth noting the Lakers are 4-7 in his absense and have slipped to 8th in the west. James is the most talented player in the NBA, but his team isn’t good enough.
Nikola Jokic – he has been unbelievable and a large reason why the Nuggets are second in the west. Looking at his stats, Jokic has more points than Russell Westbrook and Jimmy Butler, more rebounds than Steven Adams and Marc Gasol, more assists than Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving, and more steals than Giannis Antetokounmpo and Victor Oladipo.
Kawhi Leonard – Leonard has had an unbelievable bounce back season, but the Raptors finished with the best record in the East in 2017-18 and everyone knew he was a major upgrade over Demar Derozan, so I don’t see him winning.
And things can certainly change – if the Rockets start winning and go on a major streak, sure Harden can and, at that point, probably should be the MVP. But as of right now, for a team 6 games above .500, that can’t even beat the Nets at home, it’s hard to justify his “value” which you need to priotize over individual greatness when assessing this award.
Jokic for all the reasons you mentioned is hands down the MVP. But, because LeBron is even included in discussions like these (given the missed time) are the reason Jokic won’t win.