His 2017-18 campaign may have been impressive, but reigning NBA MVP James Harden is having a career year in 2018-19.
The Houston guard has been in incredible form for the 25-19 Rockets, scoring 30-plus points in an NBA-record 18 successive games and putting up a staggering 115 points in his last two games alone.
Harden led the league in scoring, 3-pointers and 50-point games on a Rockets team that won more regular-season games than anyone in 2017-18, but the individual contribution of “The Beard” has been even greater this term.
Here, we look at the numbers behind the man seemingly on course to win back-to-back MVP awards.
A plethora of points
Last season, through 41 games, Harden was averaging 30.9 points per appearance. At the same point in this campaign, his average is up to 35.4.
Another milestone: The Beard has scored 40+ points in a regular season or playoff game against every other team in the #NBA! pic.twitter.com/Ka6slbBJCR
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) January 17, 2019
No one had as many 50-point games as Harden’s four last year, and he already has reached that total this season thanks to his recent displays against the Grizzlies and Nets.
The 29-year-old also has scored at least 40 points on 15 occasions, compared to 11 at the same stage in 2017-18.
Assists, rebounds and efficiency
With six triple-doubles, Harden already has two more than he did throughout his entire MVP season, with an average of 6.3 rebounds per game this time around compared to 4.9 last season.
And while he is undoubtedly the focal point of Houston’s offense, Harden is in the league’s top five for assists, though his average is down from 9.0 to 8.5 per game.
.@JHarden13 (58 PTS, 10 REB, 6 AST) records his 2nd straight 50-point game for the @HoustonRockets! #Rockets
The last player to score 55+ PTS in consecutive games was Wilt Chamberlain in 1962. pic.twitter.com/LvGUedz3vb
— NBA (@NBA) January 17, 2019
His field-goal percentage has dropped marginally from 44.3 to 43.8 and he is slightly less effective beyond the arc — 38.7 percent in 2017-18 to 37.5 percent in 2018-19.
The Chris Paul effect
Harden’s statistical explosion has happened as the Rockets have been without Chris Paul, who suffered a hamstring injury before Christmas.
In the last 13 games without Paul, Harden has poured in a whopping 43.2 points per game, compared to 31.8 prior to his teammate’s injury, and he has failed to score fewer than 40 only four times.
Harden has averaged 16.9 shots from beyond the arc — sinking 6.2 3-pointers per game — having averaged only 11.1 attempts before Paul went down.