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It is only two weeks into the NBA season, meaning that it’s definitely way too early to be discussing potential MVP candidates. Right?
Of course it isn’t. In fact, no one would blame you for pondering who has a chance at taking home the league’s most prestigious individual award in the upcoming season as soon as the winner of the current one is handed that unmatched piece of hardware.
That is just the nature of the ever – and sometimes overly – analytical fan; they have no problem moving onto the next one before the dust of what’s just occurred has even any resemblance of a chance to settle.
There are always the obvious choices, which include the likes of Kobe Bryant, who has one MVP to his name as he begins his 17th season; Kevin Durant, who is still seeking his first despite winning the last three regular season scoring titles; and LeBron James, who is the reigning MVP, has won three out of the last four, and even added a Finals MVP trophy to his collection in June when he silenced all his critics with one of the more dazzling championship performances ever witnessed.
Then there are also the likes of Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony - you get the point.
These are the types of players that everyone expects to be in that conversation towards the end of the season. They are the superstars that at times make the game look easier than opening a door.
But there is someone else out there who has a very solid chance of not only finding himself right in the middle of the discussion, but also of going home with the award if he does.
His name is James Harden.
Essentially a household name after last year, a year in which he won the Kia Sixth Man of the Year award, Harden was traded before the season opener to the Houston Rockets after three seasons complementing Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City as both an early backup and deadly threat late in games with the Thunder.
Harden, only 23, has shown gradual improvement with each passing season, and proved during 2011-2012 while averaging 16.8 points per game that he could be flat-out unstoppable whenever he desires to be.
He did have monumental struggles in The Finals against James’ Miami Heat, but it’s easy to remember that that was the same exact case with James himself in the previous Finals. And as we can easily remember once again, James was just fine the next time around.
While Harden may not be James, A.K.A. the best basketball player on the face of the Earth, that doesn’t mean that he does not possess the skill necessary to be the league’s Most Valuable Player. In Houston he is finally part of a team where his experience, combined with an abundance of youth around him ill allow him to be the go-to guy every time out, as opposed to being a third option if Durant or Westbrook are being hugged like boxers that are pummeling their opponents.
The Rockets also expressed this same superstar faith in Harden, immediately locking him up and making him the franchise player with the max five year, $80 million contract that he was eligible coming out of his original rookie deal.
He did not give anyone a chance to question whether or not he was worth those kinds of figures, dropping 37 points in his Rockets debut and setting a new career high with a 45 point encore two nights later. Obviously he won’t average those types of numbers throughout the season, but anywhere between the 25 and 28 point per game mark, along with leading a young Rockets squad to their first postseason appearance since the 2008-2009 campaign, could be enough for Harden to be awarded the honor of MVP.
Having a point guard with the vision and keen passing ability of the also newly acquired Jeremy Lin will add some more edge to Harden’s game as well. Westbrook, as was a huge topic of discussion throughout last year’s Finals, was not and is not the prototypical point guard whose first option is to set up his teammates. Lin has made it clear that he’s the night to Westbrook’s day in that regard.
Keep an eye on James Harden. The sun may only still be rising on the 2012-2013 season, but the MVP discussion is just too fun to wait around for.
Image Courtesy : James Harden