Ahead of the clash of conference leaders Friday night in Toronto, Raptors forward DeMar DeRozan advocated for Rockets guard James Harden’s case for league MVP.
“He’s earned it,” DeRozan told Tim MacMahon on Friday, hours before the two teams face off. “The things he’s doing are incredible. He should be a lock.”
Harden has been simply outstanding this season, averaging a league-high 30.9 points per game as well as 8.9 assists per game and 5.2 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from beyond the arc — the third- and second-best marks of his career, respectively. Houston’s move to pair Harden with All-Star point guard Chris Paul this summer has worked out marvelously, as the Rockets sit at 51-13 coming into Friday’s clash at the Air Canada Centre, half a game ahead of the Golden State Warriors for best mark in the Western Conference.
DeRozan also added that he thought Harden should have won the last year’s award — which went to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook — as well. Westbrook was the first player to average a triple double for an entire season since Oscar Robertson did it in 1961-62. But Harden’s Rockets eliminated Westbrook’s Thunder in five games in the first round of the playoffs, prompting some support for Harden as the leader of the better team. Still, Westbrook received 69 out of 100 first-place votes, well ahead of Harden’s 22.
DeRozan, in the midst of one of his finest seasons as a pro, has helped lead the Raptors (47-17) to the top of the Eastern Conference, and has obvious respect for Harden. Just don’t expect the niceties to carry over into what should be a very exciting game in Toronto on Friday night.