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Harden Favored to Win 2019 NBA MVP After 17 Straight 30-Point Games

Rockets James Harden takes a shot.
James Harden has been the league's toughest check in 2018-19. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr) [CC License].
  • James Harden has emerged as the favorite to win the 2019 NBA MVP award following his latest scoring spree
  • The reigning MVP has scored 30 points or more in each of his last 17 games
  • The Beard is averaging a career-high 34.8 points per game in his seventh season with the Rockets

Don’t look now, but a Rocket has just flown to the top of the 2019 NBA MVP odds race.

James Harden has seen his odds to win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award improve from +480 on January 2nd to +130 on January 16th across a number of top online sportsbooks.

That two week span has included three 40-point performances and a 57-point outburst against the Grizzlies on Monday night in which the Beard went 17-18 from the line.

2019 NBA MVP Odds

Player 2019 NBA MVP Odds at Bovada (01/16/19)
James Harden (Rockets) +115
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) +200
LeBron James (Lakers) +800
Steph Curry (Warriors) +1100
Kawhi Leonard (Raptors) +1200

Harden now leads the league in scoring, usage percentage, and box plus/minus, and has dropped 30 points or more in each of his past 17 games. Only two players in NBA history have ever been this hot, and both retired long before the ABA/NBA merger in 1976.

Harden has always had a knack for putting the ball in the basket, but his latest scoring spree is noteworthy because of the way it’s translated into wins. Houston has gone 14-4 since December 11th and is in fourth place in the Western Conference despite being without the services of Chris Paul and Eric Gordon.

The Rockets will now also have to get by without Clint Capela, who is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with ligament damage in his right thumb. The Swiss sensation was a big part of Houston’s success, and Harden will be required to do even more heavy lifting until he returns.

Giannis Has Been a Giant

All eyes have been on Harden lately, and deservedly so, but bettors shouldn’t sleep on Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is averaging 26.4 points per game and is posting career-highs in rebounds, assists, field-goal percentage, and effective field-goal percentage.

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo Statistical Comparison

Harden
VS
Antetokounmpo

34.8 Points Per Game 26.4
6.3 Rebounds Per Game 12.6
8.6 Assists Per Game 6.1
2.1 Steals Per Game 1.4
0.6 Blocks Per Game 1.5

Much has been made of Antetokounmpo’s super human ability to convert in the paint, but the 24-year-old point forward has also become a far better playmaker in his sixth season.

His ability to pass out of double teams has lead to countless easy looks for teammates, and is a big reason why Antetokounmpo already has four triple-doubles on the year.

Is LeBron Still King?

LeBron James has been sidelined the last 11 games with a groin strain and will miss the Lakers’ upcoming two-game road trip.

That kind of prolonged absence is usually a death knell for a player’s MVP candidacy, but it could actually be working in LeBron’s favor. The Lakers are just 4-7 in his absence and have looked rudderless on far too many nights. That was especially true in Sunday night’s abysmal 101-95 loss to the Cavaliers in which LA shot just 39% from the floor and 20% from beyond the arc.

The Lakers were 20-14 before LeBron went down on Christmas Day, and his MVP odds are certain to improve if he can lead LA on a prolonged winning streak when he gets back on the court.

Should You Bet on the Beard?

The NBA MVP race has already seen three different favorites since August and it’s liable to see another shakeup before the season concludes. And while many players are having good years, Harden is having a year for the ages.

Harden is, quite simply, the greatest isolation scorer the league has ever seen, and the 2018-19 season has become his magnum opus.

The six-time All-Star is on pace to break the NBA records for three-point attempted and made in a season, and his current 17-game streak puts him in the company of basketball immortals like Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. He is, quite simply, the greatest isolation scorer the league has ever seen, and the 2018-19 season has become his magnum opus.

Jump on Harden’s +115 odds at Bovada while you still can, because they’re only going to get shorter as the year progresses.

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