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Mike D'Antoni: James Harden Deserves 2019 NBA Most Improved Player and MVP

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistApril 26, 2019

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) reacts after making a 3-point basket against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 3, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

If Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni had his way, James Harden would come away from this season with two major individual awards. 

D'Antoni told reporters Friday he jokingly mentioned Harden should be named 2018-19 NBA MVP and Most Improved Player. 

As ridiculous as it sounds for the reigning MVP to be the league's most improved player, there are some numbers to support D'Antoni's case. 

Harden has led the NBA in scoring each of the past two seasons, but his average went up nearly six full points from 30.1 in 2017-18 to 36.4 in 2018-19. The seven-time All-Star had a streak of 32 straight games this season scoring at least 30 points. He had a total of 26 games with at least 30 points in 2017-18. 

Some of the numbers show Harden was basically the same player he's always been. The 29-year-old's shooting percentage of 44.2 was basically the same as his career mark (44.3), and his three-point percentage of 36.8 was marginally higher (36.5). 

The argument for Harden as MVP is likely stronger than it is for Most Improved Player. Houston's season didn't take off until he went on that streak of 30-point games. The roster was constantly in a state of flux with Chris Paul dealing with injuries, Carmelo Anthony not fitting in, and Kenneth Faried and Austin Rivers being added during the season. 

Harden was the one constant for the Rockets in 2018-19. He pulled them out of the abyss with 42 wins over the final 57 games following an 11-14 start. 

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