Harden’s case for the price
Alex Schiffer, Nets beat the author: Harden averaged nearly a triple-double throughout his tenure with the Nets and did so while the Nets Big Three have only played seven games together. While he’s had games with Durant or Irving, he’s the primary reason the Nets are the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and have led the Nets to several wins without any of the stars by his side. Compared to other contenders, Harden had to sacrifice himself alongside two other stars while carrying the team in their absence giving him a more unique case than the rest.
Does Harden play with KD and Kyrie affect his candidacy?
Schiffer: To be determined. Harden has only appeared in seven games for Irving and Durant and the two could return to the roster next week. What does Harden’s play look like next to them? If he continues to be the main reason the Nets win, his candidacy should remain strong. If Durant or Irving emerge and Harden falls into their shadow, it could hurt him. Much will depend on Durant and Irving’s return and how Harden minimizes the stretch with them. But given everything he’s done without them, that shouldn’t affect him too much.
Where Harden sits among the MVP contenders
Sam Amick, Senior NBA Writer: So I wrote a column about the MVP race on February 24 that had this top five: LeBron James, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard and Steph Curry. But wait, the article also contained this disclaimer: “If the Nets continue to dominate… (James) Harden is going to become a compelling (and controversial) MVP candidate. Alas, here we are. He’s not at the top of my list yet, but he’s definitely rising through the ranks. Over a month later, here are my updated top five: Jokic, Embiid, Damian Lillard, Harden, LeBron.
How will the race be decided?
Amick: This race is going to be really tricky, in large part because LeBron and Embiid’s injuries are muddying the waters right now. Beyond that, Harden’s candidacy could struggle to survive if the Nets reunite their team with Durant and Irving in the fold. Like it or not, it’s extremely difficult to earn this honor when you’re in a Super Team where your talents aren’t always maximized every night.
(Photo: Rick Osentoski / USA Today)