Paul George is having the the season of his career. Not only has he made the argument for him taking the mantle as the best player on the Thunder, but he’s also one of the two best two-way wing players in the league - and yes you can quote me on that.
George, in his second year with Oklahoma City, is averaging career-highs in points (27.3), rebounds (8), and steals (league-leading 2.33 SPG), all while shooting an immaculate 40-percent from three and 45-percent from the field. Add his ability to lock up guys on the wing, and PG13 is a bonafide superstar and MVP candidate.
The numbers are there, the performance is there, and (to please basketball purists) the defense is there, but when Action Network asked George about his MVP candidacy, he didn’t want to talk about himself.
Instead, he wanted to talk - “unprompted,” according to the author - about one guy: James Harden.
“I’ll speak on James’ case,” George told Action Network. “He’s the only guy that can create and do things [for the Rockets]. I think you have to account for the guy that’s going to do whatever it takes.”
George is making a point that a lot of people are making for Harden’s repeat-MVP case. What Harden is doing for Houston on offense has been undeniable.
The reigning MVP is currently on the fourth-longest 30-point-game streak with 24 such games, just one game behind the third-longest in NBA history (Wilt Chamberlain). His numbers also go beyond the 30-point streak. In January, he averaged 43.6 points a game over 14 games, the most by any player in a month not named Wilt Chamberlain.
The race isn’t all offense to the three-time NBA All-Defense selection, obviously. George added that guys who who are asked to burden the load on offense and have to jog back on defense and guard the best guy should get consideration, as well. He just thinks that it would be impossible for Harden to mirror his effort on offense onto the defensive end.
“To be honest, James would be exhausted if he had to [play defense] at the level he’s doing it offensively. He’s putting up 60 and they’re winning by 3 or 4. I just think it’s whatever [each] guy does to help his team win, that’s what should stand out for the MVP.”
Those numbers will surely slow down with Chris Paul back, and with Capela eventually returning to the lineup, but the fact will remain that for a very long stretch, Harden was the only viable option on offense for Houston. If he isn’t creating or scoring, the wounded Rockets stood little-to-no chance of beating anyone, and George sums that up eloquently.
There are still three months left in the regular season, and a lot can shake up the MVP race before then, but whatever happens, it’s clear George will be stiff competition for Harden the entirety of the final stretch.