Harden: From players’ choice MVP to All-NBA absence

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James Harden  AFP PHOTO

James Harden
AFP PHOTO

The 2015-16 All-NBA Teams were announced on Thursday, and the league’s second-leading scorer wasn’t on any of the rosters. Not the First Team. Not the Second. Not the Third.

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James Harden — a year removed from a career-altering season where he was selected as the players’ choice MVP, finished second in NBA MVP voting and led the Houston Rockets to the Western Conference finals as one of the deadliest offensive weapons in the league — is on the outside looking in.

From the voting results of a panel of 129 sportswriters and broadcasters across North America, Harden wasn’t on a single First Team ballot and received just 106 of a potential 645 points. Last year, his second career All-NBA First Team selection, he earned 125 First Team votes and 637 total points.

From a statistical standpoint, Harden’s absence from at least one of this year’s teams is perplexing. He only trailed back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry in points per game, and compared to last season, his scoring (29.0), assists (7.5), and rebounds (6.1) all increased. He also led the league in minutes played (38.1), free-throws made (8.8) and overall points scored (2,376).

Rationally speaking, the perplexity vanishes. The Rockets were a runaway train from the get-go, and Harden was the conductor. As the go-to guy on a team that suffered such a drastic turnaround, backtracking from the Western Conference finals to a first-round dismantling after barely sneaking into the postseason, did Harden’s on-court performance — particularly on the defensive end, where he was oftentimes nowhere to be found — really warrant an All-NBA selection in a league overflowing with multitalented guards?

The results say no.

As for the guards who were selected: Curry and Russell Westbrook earned First Team honors, Chris Paul and Damian Lillard make up the Second Team, and Kyle Lowry and Klay Thompson round out the Third Team.

TNS

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