James Harden – Star Quality Player
Houston’s James Harden finally won his first NBA Most Valuable Player in 2018. The former Arizona State product averaged a career-high 30.4 points a game in leading the Rockets to the league’s best regular season record (65-17). Harden would also average a career-high 28.6 points per game in the postseason, but Houston would lose to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals in a seven games series.
It’s been a long road for Harden to the NBA MVP. A high school star in California, the 6-foot-5-inch Harden entered Arizona State as a freshman in 2007. The Sun Devils, not known as a basketball power, were picked to finish ninth in what was then the Pac-10. Harden averaged 17.8 points and 5.3 rebounds leading Arizona State to a very respectable 21-13 finish. The Sun Devils didn’t do enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and played in the NIT instead. For his efforts, Harden was a first-team All-Pac 10 selection.
Harden was even better as a sophomore averaging 20.1 points and 5.6 rebounds a game and winning the Pac-10’s Player of the Year award. He was a consensus All-American and led the Sun Devils to the second round of the NCAA tourney. After two seasons at ASU, Harden declared for the NBA Draft in 2009.
Heading to the NBA
The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Harden in the first round of the 2009 draft taking him with the third overall pick. The selection of Harden, interestingly enough, gave the Thunder the distinction of becoming the only NBA franchise ever to draft future league MVPs in three consecutive first rounds. Kevin Durant was OKC’s first pick in 2007, and Russell Westbrook was the Thunder’s original pick in 2008.
Harden eased his way into the NBA limelight. He did not start a single game as a rookie and averaged only 9.9 points a game during the 2009-10 season. Only when he was traded to Houston in 2012 that Harden became an NBA superstar. In his first season, Harden averaged 25.9 points a game. In each of the last 3 seasons, Harden has been among the league leaders in both points and assists. He led the league with 11.2 assists) in 2016-17 while also averaging 29.1 points.
In every season since the 2012-13 season, Harden has been selected to the NBA All-Star Game. He earned his fourth spot on the All-NBA First Team after this season. Harden continues to pile up the individual awards, but what he will continue to work toward is an NBA Finals victory, something that has eluded this year’s MVP over the course of his nine-year career.