Leading the Rockets to an NBA-best 15-2 mark in December, the NBA named James Harden its Western Conference Player of the Month. He was also named Player of the Week for December’s final seven days, capped by his ridiculous, historic triple-double against the Knicks on New Year’s Eve.
It’s his fourth PotM honor, his last coming in April 2016. It’s his 11th Player of the Week award, and second this season. All of the afore-mentioned superlatives have come since he was traded to Houston (thanks again, Sam Presti!).
For the month, Harden went for 28.3 points, 12 assists and 9.1 rebounds a game. He won the award basically doing what he did for all of November, as well: his season averages sit at 28.4 points, 11.9 assists and 8.2 rebounds. He is insane.
The Rockets have played one game in January, and Harden had a triple-double. The Rockets next play against the Thunder and the Beard’s prime competition for the real individual hardware, Russell Westbrook.
The point has been made countless times, but just take this into account: Westbrook was the West’ PotM in November with averages of 31.2 points, 11.2 assists and 10.5 rebounds per game, leading the Thunder to a 12-8 record.
Westbrook’s numbers might end the year worse than Harden’s — the two are that close and Harden seems to just be picking up speed — but even if they’re better, the wins are becoming too much of a separating point. Around the league, Harden is now considered the (slight) frontrunner for the award as the Rockets distance themselves, along with the Warriors and Spurs, as an elite Western Conference team.
Now, Harden is doing this without Clint Capela and with intermittent games missed from Patrick Beverley (he’s missed three of the last four and might not be back Thursday). People could toss around the “Westbrook’s supporting cast is worse” argument at the beginning of the season, but with the injuries forcing the Rockets to start Corey Brewer, play Tyler Ennis and make do of a frontline of Nene, Montrezl Harrell and Ryan Anderson, the “whose team is worse” argument has shifted in the Beard’s favor.
And the Rockets keep winning.