The debate about the NBA’s Most Valuable Player can be approached in as many ways as there are contenders for the award. But when diving into the meaning of the word “valuable,” we see that James Harden can make as good of a case as anyone.
Harden: Carrying a contender
Harden has scored or assisted on more than 42 percent of his team’s total points this season. That leads the NBA and is the highest percentage of a team’s offense than any player has been responsible for since Derrick Rose in 2010-11. Rose won the MVP.
With Harden off the court, the Rockets average 93.6 points per 100 possessions, which would make them the second-worst offense this season (behind the Philadelphia 76ers, who score 92.8 points per 100 possessions).
Harden has led the Rockets outright in scoring in 58 games this season, 52 more than any other player on the team. His 58 games as his team’s outright leading scorer is by far the most in the NBA this season. (Next is Anthony Davis at 42.)
Harden, Rockets have overcome adversity
By contrast, Curry's Warriors rank 24th in terms of most player DNPs. (This is DNP for any reason - injury, suspension, coach’s decisions, healthy scratches, etc., and inactives.)
As important as Howard is, the Rockets are 26-14 (.650) without him this season and 27-11 (.711) with him.
Where would the Rockets be without Harden?
Harden leads the NBA in wins above replacement with 19.86. Curry is second with 17.80.
Harden is the only Rockets player in the top 50 in WAR this season. The Warriors have five players in the top 50, including three in the top 25.
Also, among the playoff teams in the West (including the Oklahoma City Thunder), the Rockets are the only team with only one player in the top 50 in WAR. Every other team has at least two players.