Last year, the NBA MVP race was anything but a given. Russell Westbrook became the second player ever to average a triple-double for a season, James Harden lead the Rockets to one of the West’s best records, LeBron James reminded us all why he is the greatest player of his generation, and Kawhi Leonard proved once again that he is the best two-way player in the game. We had never seen anything like it.

This season, however, the race isn’t nearly as tight.

While many stars have performed well over the course of the season so far, one name sticks above the rest. In a GM poll by the Washington Post, 105 media members were asked to pick their MVP so far, that same name got the recognition he deserves.

The winner is none other than James Harden, and no one should be shocked by any means. Obviously, beating LeBron James always has a hint of unexpectedness to it. But what The Beard has done this season is undeniable. Playing without Chris Paul for the majority of the early season, Harden has led the Rockets to a conference-best 18-4 record while averaging 31.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 9.7 assists on 45.8% shooting.

And while Harden is the clear favorite, he hasn’t exactly bene running away with the award entirely. LeBron James (as usual), Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Steph Curry have all made impressive cases for the award as well, rounding out the top five in the survey.

For James Harden and the Houston Rockets, their red-hot start has not failed to turn a few heads this year. Moreover, with Stephen Curry’s ankle banged up, Kawhi Leonard’s leg having problems, and the Cavaliers still trying to piece themselves back together, Houston could be in store for even bigger things come post-seaosn time.

Yes, there’s still tons of basketball to be played. But, at least for now, The Beard and his squad have the league on notice.

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