James Harden is playing out of his mind, and he knows it.
Asked for his own MVP pick by SI.com’s Ben Golliver, the 2014-15 MVP runner-up didn’t hesitate to name himself—in a manner of speaking:
Harden didn’t pause or blink when asked for his own MVP pick. He simply nominated himself.
“The Beard,” Harden told SI.com, before making his case. “Look at our record. Obviously the numbers, historic numbers. Just my performance overall.”
I mean, Harden has a point.
He is averaging an absolutely bonkers 28.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 11.8 assists per game. His defense still isn’t great, but it’s better than last year. The Houston Rockets have a top-five offense, in addition to one of the four best records in the Western Conference.
Oh, and the Rockets cannot function without him on the court. They go from outscoring opponents by six points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, which would be the sixth-best net rating in the NBA, according to NBA.com, to getting pummeled by 5.8 points per 100 possessions without him—the equivalent of a bottom-four mark.
Winners of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy typically come from a top-two, maybe top-three, conference team, but Harden is nothing if not a viable candidate early on.
He might even be a trend-bucking favorite.