James Harden Projected to Finish Third in MVP Vote Behind Giannis, LeBron

Michael Shapiro

The NBA is likely to hold only a smattering of regular-season games following the coronavirus suspension, effectively ending the MVP race with three quarters of the season complete. And it appears as though James Harden will once again fall short of winning the award.

Harden finished a distant third in ESPN's MVP forecast released on Monday, trailing Bucks forward (and reigning MVP) Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as Lakers forward LeBron James. Harden finished just ahead of Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Thunder guard Chris Paul in ESPN's poll. 

The Arizona State product won his first MVP in 2017-18, though he has made a habit of near-misses in recent seasons. He finished second in the MVP vote in 2014-15, 2016-17 and 2018-19, and he finished fifth in 2013-14. With a third place finish in 2019-20, Harden will become the second active player with at least five top-three finishes in the MVP vote. LeBron James is the only player with more top three MVP finishes, placing in the top three 10 times. 

Harden is on pace for his third straight scoring title in 2019-20. He got off to a historic start to the season, averaging 39.3 points per game in his first 25 contests. Harden's production has dipped of late, though. He's averaging 28.7 points per game since Jan. 15, shooting just 40.7% from the field and 30.6% from three. Despite the relative slump, Harden is still averaging 34.4 points and 7.4 assists per game this season.

Houston currently sits No. 6 in the Western Conference at 40–24, on pace to reach the playoffs for the eighth straight year in the Harden era. The Rockets are slated to face the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs if the 2019-20 season resumes.