The NBA might have to fear the beard now. Mark Mulligan / Houston Chronicle

In a season in which everyone is expecting that Russell Westbrook will be an easy shoe in for the MVP, or LeBron James would gun for his 5th award, or Stephen Curry bouncing back for his revenge season, not everyone have guessed that Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden would be spearheading the race.

And he’s going nuts with it.

8 games in, and James Harden is literally tearing up the league. He’s posting 30 points, 7.6 rebounds, 13 assists per game. Those are the kind of numbers people expected Rus to put in, but it’s the other former OKC man who’s tallying up the stat sheets. And it’s not like this is unexpected, people knew that Harden is one of the best players in the world than can do anything on the offensive end, but there’s something much more different. Something we haven’t seen him done before while he’s still putting up insane stats.

He’s very efficient.

Prior to this season, James Harden only shot 45% or better in a season twice, in fact he never shot over 46% in year his career when he got traded to Houston. He’s shooting on a hot 49% this year in 8 games, with a 39% 3PT accuracy. He’s very efficient shooting on the floor, and it’s not a surprise as to why.

As Mike D’Antoni comes in, the plan was simple, surround Harden with shooters, space the floor, make him the ball handler and let him do the work.

The result is an open court for James Harden to do whatever he wants on the offensive end, and with shooters spaced out, he’s got a free lane to either penetrate or take advantage of the mid range game. And with defenders can’t be giving up too much space as he can drill a jumper, and can’t be too close or they’ll be burned off the dribble, the extra space makes Harden’s already elite offense even harder to check.

And then you add the vision.

An open court means to double, defenses have to track a long way to even double Harden, leaving someone very open, and he finds them. In his last 5 games he’s averaging 14 assists per game, tearing through defenses if they committed to him as he runs the Houston offense however he pleases.

And the crazy part is, he maybe able to sustain this all season.

For two straight seasons, James Harden has played 80+ games in a year, and including the playoffs. His usage rate has spiked up as a result of being the primary ball handler, making him the focal point of the offense more than he already was. As he plays 37 minutes per game, with an offense catered around his superb offensive skill and an open court, it’s not hard to expect that James Harden could average close to a triple double while winning the scoring title (currently 2nd), and lead the league in assists.

James Harden has mentioned that he deserved the MVP in 2014-15, he lost to Steph Curry. He may capture that award this year, by setting up what could be the most astonishing regular season an NBA player has ever had.


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