After a surprisingly poor start to the season, the recent strong play of James Harden has Houston climbing the table out West. But are Harden’s performances enough to claim his second consecutive NBA MVP Award? The Palmerbet sports team takes a look.

Having claimed his maiden MVP trophy last season, the general consensus was that Harden would take it easy this year. His regular poor performances in the playoffs have often been attributed to over exerting himself during the regular season.

The Rockets early season form had many NBA fans thinking that this is exactly what Harden was doing. After enjoying the league’s best record last season, Houston won just 11 of their first 25 games in 2018.

Flipping the Switch

A 50-point triple-double against the Lakers on the 14thof December marked the start of Harden’s MVP campaign. Houston is an incredible 11-2 since that date and now find themselves firmly in contention in the West playoff picture.

Harden himself had a phenomenal month of December, averaging 36.5 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists per contest. This has seen Harden quickly become the favourite for this season’s MVP award, now at odds of $2.50.

Putting the Team on His Back

What is perhaps even more impressive is his excellent form since Chris Paul’s injury on December 21stagainst Miami. Harden has scored 32 or more points in each of the 8 games since the Paul injury, with Houston going 7-1 in the process. The highlight of this was undoubtedly a 44-point triple-double to sink the Warriors last Friday.

Harden’s efficiency has not suffered at all either. He is shooting a shade under 39% from 3 and a consistent 85% from the free-throw line.

With season long averages of 33.7 points, 8.5 assists, and 5.9 boards per contest, it’s hard not to see Harden as the favourite for MVP. That said, he has some significant competition in the form of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Beware of Giannis

Going off plus minus, the Bucks have been clearly the best team in the NBA this season. A large part of that has been the phenomenal performances of Giannis, who is currently $3 in MVP betting.

The 6’11” behemoth is averaging an astounding 26.5 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. His length and athleticism give him a huge competitive advantage over almost every NBA defender.

Milwaukee currently also enjoys the league’s best record and look primed for home court during the playoffs. If they can hold on to the #1 seed and Giannis keeps up this level, he provides Harden with some stiff competition.

Analysis

With the excellent numbers he has put up of late, it’s hard to look past Harden to take home this award. Whilst Milwaukee have been excellent, the tough competition out East could see them lose the #1 spot.

If Harden can maintain this level of performance throughout the season, the award is really his to lose.

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