James Harden Wins 2018 NBA MVP Award over LeBron James, Anthony Davis

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2018

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 16:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game against the Golden State Warriors in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 16, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
Bill Baptist/Getty Images

Houston Rockets superstar guard James Harden was named the NBA's MVP on Monday, beating out Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

James Harden finally gets his MVP! https://t.co/w2chrOl4ET

As ESPN Stats & Info noted, the Houston star's numbers were on an MVP level:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

James Harden has officially been named NBA MVP, becoming the 3rd player in Rockets history to win the award, joining Hakeem Olajuwon and Moses Malone (twice). Harden is the 4th player in NBA history to average 30 points per game on a 65-win team. Each of them were named MVP. https://t.co/tPhVz5lcVI

But it left Oklahoma City Thunder fans wondering "what if?":

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Harden joins some old friends πŸ† https://t.co/wCkMM7LoSE

"I felt like I should have won last year too," Harden said after the show, via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated. "I didn't see a difference between this year and last year."

Harden, 28, was superb in the 2017-18 season, averaging 30.4 points, 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game. He combined in the backcourt with offseason addition Chris Paul to lead Houston to a 65-17 record, the best mark in the NBA.

The Rockets reached the Western Conference Finals and came within one victory of knocking off the eventual champions, the Golden State Warriors.

Harden has established himself as one of the league's premier isolation scorers and pick-and-roll maestros, destroying defenses with his drives to the basket and step-back threes. His ability to break down defenders off the dribble makes him one of the toughest players to guard, and head coach Mike D'Antoni optimized the abilities of Harden and Paul to break down opponents, favoring an iso-heavy scheme.

The result was Harden's first MVP. His competition was stiff, however.

James played all 82 games for the first time in his career and averaged 36.9 minutes per contest, staggering figures for his age-33 season. His production was as ridiculous as ever, as he averaged 27.5 points, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game.

That James dragged the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals was a feat in itself. With Kyrie Irving in Boston, his supporting cast was the weakest he's had since his original tenure in Cleveland.

Playoff performances don't factor into MVP voting, but James' herculean efforts in the postseason were a reminder he's the best player on the planet, whether he wins regular-season awards or not.

Davis solidified his reputation as the best big man in the NBA, averaging 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.3 assists per game. The experiment with Davis and DeMarcus Cousins went fairly well, but Davis was borderline transcendent late in the season after Cousins was injured, averaging 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 2.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game after the All-Star Game.

And he flattened the Portland Trail Blazers in the Pelicans' first-round playoff sweep, posting 33.0 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. While New Orleans couldn't get past Golden State in the conference semifinals, Davis and the Pelicans still had a successful season.


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