James Harden Named MVP Finalist for Fourth Straight Season
Rockets guard James Harden was named an MVP finalist on Saturday, the NBA announced.
Harden is joined by Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lakers forward LeBron James. The three-time scoring champion is Houston's lone awards finalist for the 2019-20 season.
Harden is no stranger to the MVP race. He won the award in 2016-17, and he's registered a second-place MVP finish in three of the last five seasons. Harden finished second last year as Antetokounmpo won his first MVP.
It's been a tale of two seasons for Harden. He started 2019-20 on a historic scoring tear, averaging 39.3 points and 7.5 assists per game in his first 25 contests. But Harden struggled mightily in the months leading up to the NBA's COVID-19 hiatus. Harden's scoring dipped to 28.7 points per game from Jan. 15 to March 10, and he shot just 40.7% from the field and 30.6% from three. The break in the season came at an opportune time for the eight-time All-Star.
Harden has looked closer to MVP form in Orlando. He's averaging 33.8 points per game in his last four contests, and he dropped 39 against the Lakers in a win on Thursday. If Harden continues his current stretch through the postseason, the Rockets have at least a puncher's chance at the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Harden is unlikely to actually win MVP this season. Antetokounmpo is a heavy favorite to take home the award for the second straight year, and James' revival of the Lakers will likely to give him a second-place finish. But we shouldn't discount Harden's brilliance over the last half-decade. He's the best scorer of his generation and a perennial MVP candidate. Houston remains at least a fringe Finals contender regardless of his supporting cast. Harden may never win a championship nor another MVP, but his legacy is frankly secure. There are few better players this decade.