In James Harden’s first eight NBA seasons, he was selected to five All-Star Games and three All-NBA First Teams. He led the league in assists once, missed a total of two games over three seasons (2014-17), and averaged at least 25 points in five straight seasons (2013-17). But it was until his ninth season, 2017-18, that the former No. 3 overall pick won NBA MVP.
In earning 86 percent of first-place votes, Harden became the 35th member of the exclusive club of MVP winners, 34 of whom are current or future Hall of Famers (Derrick Rose the likely lone exception). One year later, Giannis Antetokounmpo became the 36th member of the MVP club and joined a more exclusive club with a second MVP in 2020, becoming the 14th multi-time winner.
Can James Harden become the 15th?
“I cannot stop watching the Brooklyn Nets when they come on television,” Adam Lefkoe told Olivia Harlan and Speedy Morman on BetMGM’s Unleashed podcast. “We have injuries right now to LeBron, Joel Embiid, so two of the top MVP vote-getters. We have Jokić, [who’s] been unbelievable but the success of the Nuggets hasn’t been as consistent as other teams. Dame Lillard has made a case. But, how we are not talking about James Harden is more of a fact that people don’t like him and they can’t look past it.”
Before the acquisition of James Harden in mid-January, the Nets were 7-6 and buried in the Eastern Conference standings. Since Harden’s debut on Jan. 16, the Nets are 23-9, a stretch that included two separate winning streaks of at least six games and only one loss from Feb. 10 through March 18. As of Thursday, the Nets (30-15) are tied with the Milwaukee Bucks (29-14) 1.5 games back of the Philadelphia 76ers but sit atop NBA championship odds. Harden, meanwhile, ranks fifth in NBA MVP odds at +1000.
“Don’t forget that the media votes for MVP. And the media really didn’t like that James Harden was seen at a birthday party at a strip club. And that he seemed to not be following quarantine [guidelines] . . . And he forced a trade,” Lefkoe added. “But if we’re talking about MVP, this is a man that, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving missing weeks on end, carried this team to within a half a game of first place in the East and still within striking distance. And the team that he left has lost 20 games in a row.”
Listen to Unleashed below (or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and everywhere else) as Lefkoe discusses Blake Griffin, other NBA trade notes, his Ja Rule performance in front of Ja Rule, and more.
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