Houston Rockets guard James Harden is proving to everyone that he's fully capable of carrying this team until Chris Paul returns from injury.
The latest example of this came this past Thursday night against the Golden State Warriors. The 29-year-old produced 44 points, 15 assists, and ten rebounds in just over 44 minutes of play.
Harden also made the game-winning shot in overtime, that had absolutely no business going in. There was just seconds left in overtime with the Warriors leading by two points. When Harden made this improbable shot, he extended the Rockets' winning streak to six games.
This performance by Harden is yet just another example of him putting his team on his back and carrying them throughout the game. In the six games since Paul was injured, Harden has recorded 40 or more points in five of those six games.
That lone game where he didn't produce 40 points, he was still able to drop 39 points on the San Antonio Spurs. The six-time All-Star has definitely put it on himself to be the one to carry this team while Paul is out.
He has been a huge reason why the Rockets have won eleven out of their last twelve games, making them the hottest team in the NBA right now. The reigning MVP winner has also been making a very strong case to receive that award again with his performance so far this season.
The "Bearded One" is currently averaging the most points per game in the league with 33.6. He also has completed the most three-pointers in the league so far this season with 162.
Which has put him in the conversation again for the MVP this season. He has kept this team alive and they wouldn't be where they are without him. The Rockets currently sit fourth in the Western Conference.
Paul is still expected to be out for at least another couple of weeks. Which means they will need Harden to continue to produce as he has. So that when Paul returns to their lineup, this team will already be in a position to make a deep playoff run this spring.
What This Means
Harden's performance this season has been by far the best of any player so far this season. Which is why the Rockets have been able to climb out of the bottom of the standings. If he didn't step up his game, then it's likely the Rockets would still be at the bottom of the standings in the West.
It's already clear to me that Harden should already be the favorite for the MVP this season. He has been the most important player for his team, and he has also been one of the most productive players in the league so far this season.