In one of the best off season moves in recent memory, the Houston Rockets secured the second place candidate for Most Valuable Player when the organization traded for James Harden the last summer. When the Rockets signed Great Bearded One to an extension of his contract, the team gave itself a centerpiece for maybe the next 10 or 12 years.
LeBron James is the MVP for the 2012-2013 NBA season, without question. James will score his fourth MVP trophy in five years and cement his legacy as one of the 10 to 15 best players to ever play the game. I promise you, every NBA junkie is nodding their head at their computer or smartphone screen right now.
How about the second place guy? Is it Kevin Durant? Chris Paul? Carmelo Anthony? You know, the “Second Most Valuable Player?”
James Harden in your 2012-2013 “SMVP” guy. There really is no question as to why.
The Houston Rockets have not made the playoffs since the 2008-2009 season. In 2011-2012, the team went 34-32 and finished in ninth place in the Western Conference standings. Currently, the team sits at 42-33 with a hold on the seventh playoff spot out of the Western Conference. If the playoffs started today, the Rockets would be playing the Oklahoma City Thunder.
None of this would be possible without the help of Harden, who puts in 25.9 points per game which is good enough for fifth place in the league. Those points contribute to the Rockets’ 106 scoring average, an average that is tied for first in the NBA with the Thunder.
Harden’s signing, along with the off-season moves by general manager Daryl Morey, have given the Rockets a new look with Harden as the main man. Harden has tried to avoid the spotlight in his first few NBA seasons, going as far as telling the Thunder before they drafted him that he had no problem being second fiddle to Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Harden is second fiddle no more. After some early-season adjustments with point guard Jeremy Lin, the two have formed a scoring punch backcourt that allows Lin to hover around the three-point line and Harden to drive, giving him options to shoot or kick the ball out. Harden’s attacking of the basket has him going to the line more than any other player in the league. The Rockets are fine with him doing that as Harden is shooting nearly 86 percent from the charity stripe.
Harden’s game has improved the players around him. Isn’t that something you want out of an SMVP candidate?
Omer Asik was one of the savviest moves the Rockets made in the offseason. Asik is second in the league in rebounding, averaging 11.6 boards per game, with 3.3 of those coming on the offensive end.
Harden’s drive-to-the-basket ability has given Asik the second chance baskets he deserves in the paint. Lin’s outside shooting has improved from last season, as he shoots nearly 35 percent from deep. Those open looks are provided by Harden’s crashing the paint. Even Carlos Delfino is getting his second NBA career wind with his three-point shooting.
What you want out of the MVP is a guy who has dominated the league, made his teammates better and puts butts in the seat. LeBron does all of those things. What you want from the SMVP is a guy that scores points, makes his teammates better without being selfish and gives a struggling franchise a reason to believe about the future.
James Harden has my vote.