While DeMar DeRozan and James Harden will be competitors when the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors meet Friday in a potential NBA Finals preview, the Raptors All-Star gave Harden his due before the contest.
According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, DeRozan said Harden is a lock to win the MVP this season and should have captured the award last season as well.
"He's been unbelievable," DeRozan said. "The entire season."
The MVP race in the 2016-17 campaign is an interesting debate in hindsight after Russell Westbrook won it behind his individual brilliance by becoming the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double for an entire season.
However, Harden led his Rockets to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and easily dispatched of Westbrook's sixth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in the playoffs.
Harden finished second in the voting for the second time in his career after he also came one spot short in 2014-15, when Stephen Curry took home one of his two MVPs.
The Rockets are ahead of even Curry's mighty Golden State Warriors this season, and Harden has been nothing short of phenomenal.
He is averaging 30.9 points, 8.9 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from three-point range. He has also seamlessly fit in alongside Chris Paul, as there have been no prolonged struggles for the Rockets while the two superstars grew accustomed to playing with each other.
While crunch time of the season is still to come, Harden appears to have the inside lane in the race for the MVP.
Both he and DeRozan would likely rather have the NBA Finals MVP, though, especially considering the success their teams have experienced. Toronto and Houston sit atop their respective conferences entering Friday's game and will look to earn a head-to-head win against one of the other elite teams in the NBA.