James Harden and the Houston Rockets got off to a slow start to the 2018-19 campaign as the team struggled with roster changes. As a result, the reigning league MVP wasn’t quite as hyper-efficient as he had been the year prior.
However, Harden came alive in December, and as such, the Rockets season turned around in the process. Houston vaulted up to the fourth spot in the West behind their star’s historic month. In December, Harden averaged 36.9 points, 7.9 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game with a 44.6/41.3/87.1 shooting split, finding his groove to the dismay of his opponents.
Harden’s close to 2018 was spectacular, even if at times frustrating as he marched to the free throw line 186 times in 15 games including a 27 free throw attempt outing. That month-long outburst brought him back near the top of the MVP conversation, along with Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Joel Embiid, Paul George, and others (like Nikola Jokic if Denver stays hot). While some shy away from MVP talk during the season, Harden embraces it and publicly states it as one of his goals.