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James Harden now and then: From frustrated sixth man to MVP frontrunner

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Rocket Fuel takes a look at the progression of James Harden, from his journey to Houston to the alpha dog of the NBA.

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James Harden has been the most valuable player in the NBA at roughly the halfway point. Rockets fans know this, and at this point, outside of Oakland, everyone following the NBA with a brain should know this.

It wasn't always this way. Harden was an under-appreciated bench wunderkind in Oklahoma City and helped take the Thunder to the NBA Finals. Rather than paying up for him in 12 months at free agency, OKC GM Sam Presti took Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and the pick that would become Steven Adams from the Rockets for Harden.

It's now roundly viewed as a league-altering trade that makes Presti look foolish and gives every other GM pause when dealing with Morey. Nobody wants to be the next Presti getting fleeced by Dork Elvis. But at the time, while some were scratching their heads, no one outside the Rockets organization could have predicted the all-around monster the Beard has become.

Cutting Up The Revisionist History Of The James Harden Trade | RealGM Analysis

One of my favorite basketball writers, Jonathan Tjarks, says everyone is enjoying a bit of revisionist history for the James Harden trade. An excellent read.

James Harden makes his case for MVP | SBNation.com

I will never, ever get tired of reading these stories. Another 30-point game from the Beard as he keeps extending his lead in the race for the scoring title. His PER is now up over 27, a stellar number. Also continues to lead the league in win shares and offensive win shares.

Canaan back with Vipers to recover from injury | The Monitor

This was posted in the comments of the Rockets-Nets recap, but it's certainly interesting that Canaan hasn't recovered from a sprained ankle suffered a month and a half ago. Injuries are fickle, folks.

Daryl Morey says tweet was in bad taste | Ultimate Rockets

Oh, he has to apologize for this? I guess a reporter asked him a fair question. Nothing about what he said was insulting, merely suggestive. But hey! News story!

High-Low and the Rockets' struggles with fronting | Red94

Rob Dover breaks down how the Rockets have countered opponents fronting Dwight Howard in the post. One of the things that stood out to me: Terrence Jones is a good deliverer of lobs. An underrated part of his game. The Motiejunas analysis is the gold in this piece, however. Great stuff.

The Curious Case of Josh Smith, the NBA's Most Unique Franchise Savior | Bleacher Report

Howard Beck goes long on the impacts of the Josh Smith deal for both teams. Morey said those who think Smith is an analytics nightmare is "a misnomer" because of Smith's playmaking ability. SVG and the guys in Detroit think J-Smoove will succeed in Detroit. Interesting note here: Beck casually tosses in that Smith "asked to move to the bench."

How Josh Smith Is Making The Rockets Better | CBS Houston

Adam Spolane has a nice little breakdown of the good things J-Smoove has been doing since he started coming off the bench. I think all the chatter about how the Rockets "have figured it out" should hold off until our games against the Thunder and Warriors coming up.

The Big Shot: Josh Smith finds fit with Rockets after cast off by Pistons | The Washington Post

Smith says he texts some of his old Pistons teammates every day to "let them know of how proud I am of them." He says he doesn't pay attention to the legions of Internet haters. Instead, "I watch 'Family Guy.' I watch 'Maury Povich.'"