"If you twisted my arm today, I would probably vote for James Harden," Jackson told The Dan Patrick Show on Thursday. "He's single-handedly put that Houston Rockets team in the position they are in today. It would be tough."
Curry and Harden are the consensus favorites to win the award. Other top candidates include Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Pelicans forward Anthony Davis. This week, oddsmaking service Bovada set Curry as a 1-to-4 favorite to win the award, with Harden at 3-to-1, Westbrook at 5-to-1, and James at 25-to-1.
Although Jackson's departure from Golden State last summer was clouded in drama, he referred to Curry as "my guy" and said that his former point guard was also a worthy MVP candidate.
"I'm fine with selecting [Curry because] the season he's had has been incredible," Jackson continued. "Westbrook: 10 triple-doubles and carrying that [Thunder] team, injury-prone, into the playoffs. LeBron being the best player in the world. But I think right now I would go with James Harden because of what he's done. He's stepped up his game defensively. He's not a great defender but he's competing on the defensive end."
Harden, 25, is averaging 27.6 points, 7 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals while carrying Houston to a 51-25 record, largely without the help of franchise center Dwight Howard, who has missed more than half of the season due to injuries. The three-time All-Star guard has topped 40 points a league-leading nine time this season and he's one of just two players with multiple 50+ point games in 2014-15. Harden ranks No. 1 overall in Win Shares, No. 2 in Real Plus-Minus, and No. 5 in Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
Curry, 27, is averaging 23.7 points, 7.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals while leading Golden State to a franchise-best and league-leading 61-13 record. Curry ranks No. 3 in Win Shares, No. 1 in Real Plus-Minus and No. 3 in PER.
The Warriors' remarkable success under first-year coach Steve Kerr, Jackson's replacement is a huge plank in Curry's candidacy. The Warriors rank No. 2 on offensive efficiency, No. 1 in defensive efficiency, and No. 1 (by a mile) in point differential. Jackson, who dressed in all black for his final game last season amid rumors that his future was in jeopardy, has publicly suggested that he deserves recognition for Golden State's growth, opining on an ESPN broadcast that, "You cannot disrespect the caterpillar and rave about the butterfly."