Has James Harden Become Underrated?

In a season that seems lost for the Houston Rockets, people have also assumed the season was lost for James Harden.

Last year James Harden came second in MVP votes, coming behind Steph Curry of course. He led his Rockets to the Western Conference Finals last season when they had no reason making it that far. During the season and playoffs the Rockets were plagued with injuries and counted on Harden to carry them. And he did. They ultimately lost to the Golden State Warriors. It was a matter of time before they lost. Harden couldn’t beat the Warriors by himself.

This season all the pressure was on the Rockets to make it back to the Western Conference Finals and beyond. The Rockets couldn’t handle such high expectations, starting the season 4-7, which caused head coach Kevin McHale to get fired 11 games into the season. People started to point fingers and dubbed Harden as a “coach killer.”

The Rockets weren’t looking like the team they were before. With reports of on-court and off-court issues of Dwight Howard and Harden, everything seemed to be spiraling out of control in Houston. There were locker room issues between the players and fans were getting upset at Harden for his carelessness controlling the basketball and for his horrid defensive abilities.

Although struggling in his first 20 games of the season (where they started 9-11), Harden has picked it up immensely and has played like his almost-MVP self (minus the horrid defense of course… He still can’t defend for crap). But with nobody focusing on Houston, it seems they have done the same with Harden.

Harden is averaging 29 points, 7.1 assists, and 6.4 rebounds per game. He has ten 40+ point games this season. He has four games with 40+ points and 10+ assists this season; the rest of the NBA has four in total. Even though the Rockets are currently 32-32 and sit at the 8th seed in the Western Conference, can we agree that they wouldn’t even have as many wins as they have right now without him? It’s unfortunate because since the Rockets aren’t as good as they were last season record-wise and are barely in the playoff picture, it means that James Harden isn’t ranked high in the MVP rankings, similar to Russell Westbrook last season.

With all the media attention focused on things like Steph Curry and how godly he is in-game, LeBron James and Cleveland Cavalier drama, Kevin Durant and whether he’ll leave Oklahoma City in free agency or not, and so on, it seems like Harden has slipped under the radar. And that isn’t fair to do to an MVP-like player like Harden is.

With the downfall of the Rockets from how good they were last season to this season, it seems Harden has also fallen with them in the eyes of the fans of the NBA. He’s statistically having a better season than last year, and it seems people just aren’t noticing that.

It doesn’t seem likely the Rockets will have a complete turnaround with 18 games left in the season, but who knows. Maybe if they make the playoffs they’ll kill it and take down the Warriors and win the NBA Finals with Harden winning finals MVP? No, probably not. But we’ll see. But maybe then if that happens, people will start to notice James Harden as one of the league’s best players, which fans seem to have forgotten.

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