“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” Harden told NBA.com’s Fran Blinebury. “I thought I was last year, too.”
Harden finished second in MVP voting behind Curry after leading the Rockets to a first-place finish in the Southwest Division for the first time since the 1993–94 season, when they won the NBA Finals. In the 2015 postseason, the Rockets were knocked out of the Western Conference Finals by Curry and the Warriors, who went on to win it all. Still, Harden thinks he deserved the distinction of MVP.
“I know I was the MVP. That's 100 percent given all the things that happened last season. Credit the Golden State Warriors for an unbelievable year....But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs....I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”
In a statistical comparison with Curry, Harden holds his own. Last season Harden averaged 27.4 points, 7.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game, while Curry averaged 23.8 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. Curry led the league in three-pointers (286), free throw percentage (.914) and steals (163). Harden led in minutes played (2,981), free throws (715) and points (2,217), but also committed the most turnovers (321).
Harden was voted MVP in last season's inaugural NBA Players' Awards.
Harden will begin his quest to best Curry in the 2015–16 season when the Rockets kick off their regular season against the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 28.
“You don't think I can do more?” Harden said. “Just wait. I'll show you.”
- Erin Flynn