A quick look at Harden’s recent play will back that up. During this nine-game stretch, his stats across the board are remarkable: 39.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.0 steals per game to go with shooting 44.7 percent overall, 40.7 percent from 3-point range and 87.8 percent from the foul line. He has had eight straight 30-point games and has eclipsed 40 points three times in his past six. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, the 388 points Harden has scored in his past 10 games are the most by any NBA player in a 10-game stretch since Kobe Bryant scored 396 from March 22 to April 8, 2007. “I think he’s just wanted to pick it up and take it to another level,” Rockets forward PJ Tucker said. “I don’t think he was playing at the level he wanted to early on. He’s got his body in such great shape now, being able to push through the times when he gets tired, teams throwing double teams, different kinds of looks, and his determination to still score and get to his spots is pretty remarkable. “It’s just what he does.”
But then he was asked if his recent play, and his team's recent success, merited his return to the MVP conversation. It quickly became clear that the idea that he was a one-and-done MVP winner is something Harden simply wouldn't accept. "I mean, yeah. Of course I should be in that conversation," he said, followed by a laugh and a shake of his head. "I mean, I receive a lot of hate, but it won't stop me from going out there and killing every single night, being that dog that I am. You can name a few other people that should be in the conversation.
Harden had 45 points and six assists, Clint Capela added 24 points and 18 rebounds, and the Houston Rockets beat the Boston Celtics 127-113 for their eighth win in nine games. "Of course, I should be in that conversation," Harden, the reigning MVP, said. "I received a lot of hate, but it won't stop me from going out there and killing it every single night and being the dog that I am. You can name a few other people that can be in that conversation, but realistically, it's coming back."
Ryan Wolstat: Respect from one Finals MVP to another. Dwyane Wade on Kawhi Leonard last night: "When it comes to MVP talk, I feel like he should definitely be leading the charge. He is a player that plays both ends of the floor and at the end of the game makes big plays and shots."
Nick Kosmider: Malone takeaway quote tonight: “I think Nikola is showing everybody in the NBA, with three starters out, that he is a most valuable player candidate. No just from a stats standpoint, but he does it every single night in so many different ways. That’s why he’s a special player."
Here’s Nikola Jokic’s reaction to Michael Malone saying he should be an MVP candidate: “That’s an individual thing. What happens happens...”
Erik Horne: Paul George on being in the early MVP conversation, says it’s not his focus: “My job is to play as hard as I can, try to win as much as possible. If that makes me MVP, then so be it.”
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they get the spotlight for being regarded as the best players on the projected best teams. Add James Harden to that mix. This head start, Curry believes, is vital. If a superstar doesn’t have a storyline to magnetize attention, he must hijack it with something incredible. Does that bother you that you aren’t in the conversation? “I don’t care,” he said, seamlessly executing a shoulder shrug, smirk and eye roll simultaneously. “I just know the narrative isn’t there so I would have to go above and beyond. So, it’s whatever. I’m blessed to have three rings. I’m good.”
Joel Embiid has expressed multiple times his desire to be this season's MVP, as in NBA Most Valuable Player. Brett Brown, though, has his own interpretation for what MVP means for the 76ers all-star center. "Joel's discussion for wanting to be MVP, that's Most Valuable Person," the Sixers coach said Friday. "He is our leader. That's what interests me the most."
You called this the ‘Summer of Separation.’ What does that mean? John Wall: Thirty-two. CH: Thirty-two. What does that mean? John Wall: That’s the ESPN ranking I got. So it’s a Summer of Separation. I’ve gotta separate myself. CH: That’s deep. It’s kinda deep. League MVP? Is that a goal? John Wall: Ultimate goal.
You mentioned MVP. Is that in your sights this season? Damian Lillard: I finished fourth last year, so why wouldn’t it be? First-team All-NBA.
Mark Medina: Per @BovadaOfficial: Kevin Durant has 9/1 odds to win 2018-19 regular season MVP. Stephen Curry has 15/1 odds. LeBron James is the favorite with 10/3 odds.
Jonathan Feigen: Harden brings his mom Monja Willis on the stage with him. "All glory to God, man. All glory to God. Shout out to the NBA Huge shout out to the Rockets, whole city of H-Town. Tilman, Tad, Daryl. Rafael. All the guys that helped."
Jonathan Feigen: Harden on his Mom: "She's my backbone. Good times. Bad times. I'm happiest for my Mom. Finished with: "See you all next year. Swag." And then Anthony Anderson mocks his defense.
Jonathan Feigen: Harden said "From Sixth Man to the MVP." He the only player ever to do that. Only Harden and Bill Walton have won both.
Royce Young: Via @ESPNStatsInfo the Thunder are the first franchise in NBA history to draft eventual MVPs in three straight seasons (2007-2009). (They were already the first franchise in NBA history to do it back-to-back as well with Durant and Westbrook.)
Adam Wexler: #Rockets @James Harden wins the #NBA MVP award. It's his 1st MVP honor. He's the 3rd Rockets player to win MVP (Olajuwon '93-'94, Malone '78-'79 & '81-'82). @KPRC2
Melissa Rohlin: Kevin Durant on not being in the running for the MVP award: "It's all good. I wasn't expecting it."
Micah Adams: This is LeBron's 13th straight top-5 finish in MVP voting, breaking a tie with Kareem for the longest streak in NBA history. Now has unequivocally the longest sustained peak ever.
Bucks clearly felt the Rookie of the Year award was a two-man race, that wasn’t the case when they voted for the league’s Most Valuable Player. The nine Bucks who were polled unanimously chose James Harden of the Houston Rockets. The Rockets veteran shooting guard, now in his ninth season, has been a force all season, averaging a league-leading 30.6 points a game.
Jovan Buha: Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry wishes New Orleans had a better record so Anthony Davis would have a stronger case for MVP: "The only thing I'm disappointed in — I think if we could have had a better record, if we could have been in the runnings where we're going to play at home and [win] 50-plus games, I think his name would definitely be in the MVP running. When you have guys like Harden and what they've done, I think it's hard for anyone to not to vote for Harden for MVP right now. But obviously LeBron James and what he has done is very impressive too. ... I mean, we lost a guy that was averaging 26 and 12 [DeMarcus Cousins]. And then for Anthony to kind of take this team and put it on his back and do what he's done."
A year after Westbrook rallied to take the NBA's Most Valuable Player from Harden — the frontrunner for most of the season — the Rockets guard seems poised to bring home the hardware this season. It makes some sense to Westbrook. “There's a lot of guys doing a lot of great things in the league,” Westbrook said at Saturday's Thunder shootaround. “Honestly, I don't know kind of what you go off of, because MVP's kind of been picked differently every year. So it depends what criteria, what it is that you guys vote for. But obviously (Harden's) leading the charge at the moment.”
Tim MacMahon: Russell Westbrook said James Harden is having a great year for team with the best record, but he stopped short of declaring Harden deserves MVP. “I don’t have a pick. There’s a lot of guys doing a lot of great things in the league. Honestly, I don’t know what you go off of.”
The punctuation point came in Portland a couple weeks back, James Harden making his final lethal claim on an MVP award that will soon be his. He scored 42 points. He obliterated the Blazers' 13-game win streak. He gave Houston the 57th of their 62 (and counting) wins. He removed all doubt. “It's his turn,” Kevin Durant told The Athletic recently. “Just give it to him. It's his time to win it.”
Mark Berman: @Stephen Curry on @James Harden considered the favorite to be named the NBA's Most Valuable Player: "He's had an unbelievable year,leading Houston to another level. James is definitely,probably the leader n the clubhouse when it comes to that MVP conversation & deservedly so"
When Wade’s Heat hosted James’ Cavs on Tuesday night, LeBron actually led the head-to-head rivalry 15-14, but Wade evened it up with the help of a 98-79 drubbing. It was a big win for the Heat as they try to hang onto a playoff spot, and before the game Wade was asked about his relationship with LeBron and what it’s like playing against him. Wade didn’t mince words: it’s a chance to play against one of the greatest ever. “He’s one of the game’s greatest players. Arguably the greatest,” Wade said. “I favor Michael Jordan. … So it’s one and two of the greatest players of all time and I get an opportunity to play against one of them.”
This is a season where prohibitive MVP favorite James Harden has done phenomenal things with NBA-leading Houston, where reigning MVP Russell Westbrook has been fantastic again for Oklahoma City, and where Anthony Davis has found a new stratosphere to take his game, especially after New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins. James raves about them all. But ... "I would vote for me," James told The Associated Press. "The body of work, how I'm doing it, what's been happening with our team all year long, how we've got so many injuries and things of that nature, guys in and out, to be able to still keep this thing afloat, I definitely would vote me."
Better yet, Sunday marked the 864th consecutive game that James scored at least 10 points, pulling him within two games of tying Jordan’s NBA record of 866 consecutive games. Barring something unforeseen, James will tie Jordan’s record Wednesday at Charlotte — the team Jordan owns. How’s that for poetry? 14. “He’s just a force,” Drew said. “He’s a force and he has put up MVP numbers without a doubt.”
“I mean to me it’s just clear cut he should be the MVP,” said Rockets guard Eric Gordon, who had 18 points against the Blazers to match his season-long average that is third on the team behind Harden and Paul. “He’s scoring. He’s passing. And to me, the efficiency is just there. You know, whenever there’s a tight game, he’s just hitting the tough shots. I just don’t know what else you want from a guy like that.
James Harden appears to be the frontrunner to snag his first MVP award, but Draymond Green warns that Anthony Davis could be the individual who prevents the Houston Rockets' guard from securing the hardware, an award that he was runner-up for in two of the last three years.
"Houston is having a good [season], but I'm most impressed with New Orleans," Green said after shootaround on Thursday. "With some of the games they won, with some of the numbers that AD has put up, has been incredible and they're doing that without DeMarcus. I think there was kind of a consensus around the world that once DeMarcus went out, that they'd struggle, and yet, AD is putting them boys on his back...That's impressive."
Draymond Green on James Harden: "You knew it wouldn't be long before he actually does pull through and win one, and then I know if you're him, you're sitting there like, 'Man, now here come AD putting up different historical stat-lines every night.' But James has had a great year. Their team is performing great. So, I don't know what happens, but he's put himself in the best position he possibly can, that's for sure."
Kerry Eggers: New York coach Jeff Hornacek on @Damian Lillard: “The guy is playing fantastic. He might be one of those guys you have to start talking about for the MVP.” #RipCity
Nick Friedell: LeBron James was asked Saturday about the possibility of winning another MVP award at this point in his career and acknowledged that he is playing for something more than just his own legacy at this point. "Team success is always the number one, but along the way if you're able accomplish some individual awards, individual achievements, it would mean a lot," James said after Saturday's practice. "I feel good. This is my 15th year, but this is one of the best years I've had as far as how I feel and I want to continue that. I want to kind of try to break the mold for the next generation. So just take the narrative out of 'OK, you're past your prime when you get [to] 31, or you're past your prime in your 12th year in the league, or whatever the case may be.' Hopefully I can break the mold so when the next guy comes, he can still get 200 or 300 million and be 33 years old. I'm serious.
LeBron James: You guys are laughing, I'm serious. This is the mold I'm trying to break. It's not just about me, it's for the next crew as well ... I'll be 33 in 15 days. This is my 15th season, and this is the best I've felt in my career. I want it all!"
Tim MacMahon: James Harden was asked if he's looking to win MVP. "I’m looking to win the championship this year. That’s all of our goal. It’s a buildup. Every day is a grind. There’s going to be some ups and some downs, but as long as we’ve got our eyes on the bigger prize, we’ll be all good."
People want to know about Antetokounmpo as an MVP candidate. LeBron, you're a four-time MVP. What do you think? "I think at the end of the day, it's all about team success. That's what we all want," James said. "But he has the skillset, he has the talent and he has a great coach that can help him get to that point."
And you, Dwyane Wade, a former Finals MVP, who's playing his fifth season alongside James. What say you of Antetokounmpo? "Obviously you could tell he's put in a lot of work to his game," Wade said. "He's got the confidence early on from his coach when everyone was saying he couldn't shoot, he couldn't do this or that, his coach gave him a lot of confidence and his teammates believed in him. It took his confidence to another level. He's at that point now where he's just figuring it out. He's being nasty. He's dunking everything down by the rim.”
Ben Golliver: Story: After Westbrook tops Harden for MVP, Rockets GM Daryl Morey wonders whether it's time to scrap NBA awards. Blake Griffin: honestly, we should do away with championships too. seems dumb to me. participation trophies for everybody. don't @ me.
In a phone interview Saturday, Rockets GM Daryl Morey raised questions about the MVP voting process, which involves a panel of 100 media members casting their votes at the end of the regular season. “I don’t know if this is a good process,” Morey told The Crossover. “The ones that are decided by players or executives or media, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. I honestly don’t think there’s a good process. You could argue for eliminating the awards altogether. I don’t really see a good way to do it that doesn’t have major issues. I like clean answers. If there’s not going to be a set criteria and there’s going to be issues with how it’s structured, for me it might be better to not have it.”
“Given that the criteria seems to be shifting away from winning, I would guess that [adding Paul] probably doesn’t help anyone’s chances on our team,” Morey acknowledged. “That said, I don’t think anybody really cares [going forward]. James definitely cared and I think we all cared [about the 2017 MVP]. But we’ve moved on since the award isn’t focused on winning any more. Let’s just win and not worry about it.”
Westbrook made the 2016-17 season a memorable one, putting his name in NBA record books as only the second player ever, and first since Oscar Robertson in 1962, to average a triple-double. Westbrook also broke Robertson's record for most triple-doubles in a season with 42. "I remember growing up just being home, playing the video games and stuff with my pops, and my mom sitting there and my brother and just talking about maybe one day I could be the MVP. Obviously I was joking at the time," Westbrook said. "But now to be standing here with this trophy next to me is a true blessing, man, and it's an unbelievable feeling, something that I can never imagine."
Kevin Love: Congrats to @russwest44 for finishing his historic+unforgettable season with the #NBAMVP. Unbelievable what you've accomplished brother.
He had been the leading man for the duration of the NBA’s regular season, and for Russell Westbrook, there was no twist ending. At Monday’s NBA Awards show, the Thunder guard was named the league’s Most Valuable Player, an outcome that had been expected since the regular season ended in April.
Erik Horne: Westbrook invites Collison, Oladipo, Roberson, Kanter and Gibson on stage. "My guys. These are my brothers. This award is not for me."
Madelyn Burke: Westbrook: "I never thought I would say this, but I'd like to thank the media" #yourewelcome
Erik Horne: Westbrook: “My brother texts me every single game at halftime. He doesn’t have to do that. He does that out of the kindness of his heart.”
Kevin Love: Congrats to @Russell Westbrook for finishing his historic+unforgettable season with the #NBAMVP. Unbelievable what you've accomplished brother.
AJ Neuharth-Keusch: LeBron hasn't finished outside the top three in MVP voting since 2007-08, when he was fourth.
Howard Beck: MVP finalists, as announced on @NBAonTNT: Russell Westbrook James Harden Kawhi Leonard Winner announced at June 26 awards show.
Ira Winderman: No MVP for LeBron. The three finalists are Westbrook, Harden and Leonard. So LeBron can win Finals and not be at awards ceremony.
VICE Sports: You've mentioned Thomas as a fringe MVP candidate before, where do you think he ranks among point guards in today's league, and where would he actually land on your MVP ballot? Isiah Thomas: He's definitely on the MVP ballot, with what he's done for that Boston franchise, and the type of season that he's had. His season has been just as good as the Hardens and the Westbrooks of the world. And the LeBrons of the world. You know all those guys have had spectacular seasons and they've lifted their teams up to spectacular heights over the course of this NBA season.
Sirius XM NBA: Alvin Gentry says he expects Westbrook to win the MVP just because of the historic nature of the triple double mark.
Sirius XM NBA: Gentry adds that he wouldn't be shocked if Harden won though. He wouldn't even mind the two being co-MVPs
Our crowd-sourcing and canvassing has found 62 of the NBA’s 100 first place votes for 2017 MVP. There was no announced list, so we identified the votes and that a voter had a ballot using Twitter, interviews, podcasts, articles and TV broadcasts. And Westbrook will edge Harden. And right now we estimate the MVP race, after 62 first place votes, to be at: Russell Westbrook: 522 James Harden: 456 View our comprehensive spreadsheet of votes and our methodology here A first-place vote speaks the loudest by carrying a three point margin with it. First is worth 10, second 7, third 5, fourth 3 and fifth 1.
Brandon Jennings recently wrote an article for The Players’ Tribune stating you deserve to be this year’s MVP. It seems like the main guys in the debate are Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James. Despite your monster season, you haven’t been mentioned much. Does that frustrate or motivate you? John Wall: It just gives me more motivation to get to where I want to be. I want to be on top of that [MVP] list. That’s always going to be a goal for me individually. I ain’t worried about it, though. Those guys are each having a heck of a season too. All I can do is keep improving, keep winning, and eventually I’ll get there.
Stephen Curry: It’s just a matter of how you define MVP. That seems to kind of change from year to year just depending on your preference and what you enjoy watching on the court, what matters most to you in that kind of sense. I said [Harden] probably a month ago on what Houston was projected to do going into the season. But, obviously, I’m not voting on it. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds. What sucks about it is you have to wait so long now [NBA awards show is June 26] for the guys who are in that conversation.
You recently tweeted that Russell Westbrook deserves the MVP award. Is Russ’ campaign the best individual season you’ve ever seen? Blake Griffin: Yes. It almost blows my mind to think that anybody else could win MVP this year. That’s not taking anything away from James [Harden] and Kawhi [Leonard] and LeBron [James] because they’ve had excellent seasons too, but Russ’ production is crazy. And the things that set it apart are their record when he’s had triple-doubles, his PER and his PER in the clutch. As a player, those are all the things you look for – a player who’s going to make his team better, a player that wins games for you and a player who performs when you need him to. I honestly never thought I’d see someone average a triple-double. That’s why Russ’ run has been so mind-blowing. It takes an insane amount of energy to do that. You have to be involved in everything and have such a high motor.
Alex English: If I had an #MVP vote I would vote for @Isaiah_Thomas based on what he has done for his team to bring them to the top of the east.
Brandon Jennings: John With the Shades is my MVP. Personally, I think the résumé speaks for itself: lethal scorer AND lethal defender. Leader of the team that has probably most outplayed its expectations this season. And, on any given night — the best point guard in the world.
Brandon Jennings: Voters … you do what you want, though. Recognize or ignore the excellence. Pick my guy or don’t. But I’ll leave you with some highly valuable final advice — and it’s something that I’ve learned from almost a full decade of experience: Snubbing the kid from Raleigh? It’s a bad idea. Lotta people are going to be “learning” the name John Wall these playoffs. Doubt any of ’em forget it.
Matt Bonner: Now, as someone who played for Coach Pop for the last 10 years … let me put that into a little perspective. The Spurs’ system is predicated on one of Pop’s favorite sayings: “Good to great.” Translation: Always pass up a merely good shot, or a merely good play, for a great one. Basically — move the ball, make the extra pass, and be unselfish. And since there’s so little ball domination in that system … it makes it pretty impossible for any one player to put up a huge scoring average. Even Tim Duncan — arguably the greatest power forward to ever play the game — never had a season in which he averaged 25.7. And that’s really all you need to know. To me, 25.7 points per game in the Spurs system … that’s like 30 plus on almost any other team.
Matt Bonner: As any sandwich lover knows, a great sandwich lives or dies by its bread. And as any NBA fan knows, defense wins championships. And Kawhi is the best defender in the NBA. This year, to be honest, it’s not even really that close. Kawhi has it all. He’s got the physical attributes — long arms, big hands, strength and quickness. He’s got the mental attributes — an off-the-charts basketball IQ, a next-level understanding of angles, the best sense of anticipation I’ve ever seen. He’s got the work ethic — the drive to absolutely work his butt off, night in and night out, to lock down his man. And he’s got the clutch gene — he quite literally wins games in the fourth quarter on the defensive end.
May 16, 2022 | 7:38 am EDT Update
But what happens if Phoenix uses the threat of restricted free agency and a limited market of teams with available cap space as leverage? Would the Suns tell Ayton to go out and get an offer sheet from another team, with the belief it would get matched? ESPN is projecting four teams — the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs — to each have more than $30.5 million in available cap space. A fifth, the Portland Trail Blazers, would need to waive starter Josh Hart to create a max slot. Each of the four teams (and possibly Portland) can offer a four-year, $131.1 million contract.
Considering Phoenix is now getting a discount of $46 million (but with one less year), the likelihood is that the offer is matched. In total, 17 players have signed an offer sheet, with seven going unmatched. The latest was in 2020 with Bogdan Bogdanovic and the Sacramento Kings. The risk for the Suns is a contract laden with an advance payment, trade bonus and fewer years. Instead of having Ayton under contract through the 2026-27 season, there would be the possibility of him becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2024 or 2025. A sign-and-trade is also an option, but that would require the Suns to cooperate.
Since the All-Star break, Booker was one of three players to average 30 points while shooting 50% from the field and 40% on 3-pointers, per ESPN Stats & Information research. The other players were Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum. He is also one of three players to average at least 25 points in each of the past four seasons, joining Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James. Defensively, he averaged a career-high 1.1 steals and held opponents to a career-best 41.9% as the closest defender (according to Second Spectrum tracking) and contested 88.4% of shots faced as the closest defender for the first time in his career. If there is a concern to the supermax it is the $113 million that Booker is owed in the final two seasons.
Crowder is entering the final year of his contract and is extension eligible. The forward is eligible to sign a four-year $58.3 million contract. Crowder started all 67 games he played this season, averaging 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and shooting 34.8% from 3. The future finances of Phoenix (new contracts for Ayton, Booker and Johnson) will certainly factor into the decision to extend Crowder.
Overall, he shot 44.3% from the field (his lowest since 2013-14) and 37.3% from three (lowest since 2017-18). A concern with extending Middleton to a lucrative contract is the workload that he has endured since the 2017-18 season. The guard currently ranks seventh in games played and fifth in minutes among all active players. He will turn 33 years old in the first year of a possible new contract.
The Bucks’ financial outlook and the loss of Donte DiVincenzo makes signing Connaughton a priority if he declines his option. The next contract for Connaughton should range between $8 million and $10 million, similar to the two-year, $18.7 million extension that his teammate Grayson Allen signed last October.
June 21: Thanasis Antetokounmpo has a $1.9 million player option in his contract. Antetokounmpo has established Bird rights (on the roster for three years or more), allowing the Bucks to exceed the cap to sign him if the player option is declined. The market for him is the veteran minimum exception of $1.9 million.
Brook Lopez is entering the last year of his contract, and Milwaukee can extend him for four additional seasons and up to $74.7 million (a starting salary of $16.7 million in the first year). The veteran missed 69 games this season recovering from back surgery. Lopez continues to be a presence on the defensive end. Per Second Spectrum, he allowed opponents to shoot 48.8% in the restricted area when contesting shots as the closest defender over the past two seasons. That is the second lowest behind Jaren Jackson Jr. The projection for Lopez on an extension is two years, $20 million.