Far-Fetched Friday: James Harden Will Win the 20-21 MVP

03/20/2021

With the news that LeBron James suffered a high ankle sprain and is out indefinitely coming after a week where it was announced Joel Embiid will also miss significant time with an injury, many are wondering who will win MVP this season. This is perhaps the most bizarre MVP race in recent history. 

Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday, we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we look at a former MVP reminding us how dominant he is on a night-to-night basis.

Halfway through the season, you can make the case that 8-10 players deserve the reward. This is just one of the side effects of a shortened season during a pandemic. The standings can look completely different after one week. For example, the Hawks were in 11th in the Eastern Conference when they fired head coach Lloyd Pierce on March 2nd. Since promoting Nate McMillian as interim head coach, the Hawks have gone 8-0 and are now tied for 4th place.

With so much changing from week to week, so much of the season comes down to continuity. In comes James Harden. Since joining the Nets in January as part of a blockbuster trade, Harden has quickly become the engine (Harden has had 1099 possessions only behind Russell Westbrook and De'Aaron Fox) of the team, even when Durant plays. Kyrie even told Harden, "You are the point guard. I am goinE to play shooting guard." 

The Nets have gone 21-8 since Harden joined, winning 12 of their last 14 games, all while without Kevin Durant. During that stretch Harden has played 38 minutes a game, averaging 28 points on 61% true shooting while also grabbing 9.6 rebounds per game. 

The most impressive aspect of his game in Brooklyn is his playmaking.

 Over the last 14 games, Harden has led the league in 11 assists per game, and it has been a delight to watch. Reminiscent of his MVP year, we once again see how much of maestro James Harden can be. He has found an unlikely pick-and-roll partner in the 6'4" guard-pseudo center Bruce Brown.

The stat that I think is going to help Harden win the MVP this year is his durability. 

James Harden rarely misses more than a game at a time despite being near the top in minutes and usage rate year after year. It's one of the things we take for granted when it comes to Harden partially due to the fact it seems like he flames out in the playoffs, but as far as the regular season goes, Harden is one of the league's few iron men. The Nets are half a game behind the 1st seed 76ers, who just lost their MVP candidate for a week. If the Nets end up with the number 1 seed, James Harden has an undeniable case.

Two things to consider in terms of voting. One, will Harden get penalized for playing with two other megastars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving? Two, will voters hesitate to reward Harden after the way his time in Houston ended? So much of who wins the award is narrative-based, and I can easily see Harden missing out because of the bad taste he left in many fans' mouths. 

My prediction is the James Harden will be the 2020-21 NBA MVP.


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