NBA MVP Ladder 2.0: Is the award Joel Embiid’s to lose in the second half of the season?

Lakers forward LeBron James (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Lakers forward LeBron James (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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NBA Brooklyn Nets James Harden (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

NBA MVP Ladder, No 3: James Harden, Brooklyn Nets

Emerging as a surprise candidate, James Harden has taken advantage of becoming the floor general as his impact has paid dividends for both the Brooklyn Nets and Harden’s name being mentioned in the MVP conversation.

Harden leads the NBA in assists, has improved the chemistry on his team, has gotten his teammates on the same page and more involved on offense as he has become the unheralded leader who has led this team in Durant’s absence as he recovers from a hamstring injury. Everyone knows that this is Durant’s team, but Harden has been the glue guy that is keeping everyone playing efficiently.

He has been an offensive juggernaut and has used his high basketball IQ to wreck the game plans of opposing coaches. It appears that Harden is playing the best basketball of his career now that he doesn’t have the responsibility of carrying the load. During the 2017-18 season when he won the MVP, he averaged 30.4 points per game, 5.4 rebounds with 8.8 assists.

Harden is currently averaging 25.5 points, 8.7 rebounds with 11.4 assists since he joined the Nets. Harden’s scoring average is down, but it’s only because he is sacrificing for the benefit of the team which is a vital characteristic an MVP has embedded in his DNA. Harden currently ranks third in the league with eight triple-doubles and has led the Nets to wins in 10 of their last 11 games.

The Nets started the season with a 7-6 record and after the acquisition of Harden, they went on a 17-7 tear. Voters may very well discredit Harden for his performance at the beginning of the season while he was still a member of the Houston Rockets, but based on his performance as a member of the Nets, you have to include his name in the conversation.

It will be interesting to see if Harden can continue to have a similar impact once Durant returns to the lineup. The honest answer to that question is that Harden might play even better when that time comes.