Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Paul George and James Harden
- In an exclusive interview with The Action Network, Paul George didn't want to make a case for himself to win MVP, but he did talk about James Harden's candidacy.
- George, one of the league's best defenders, emphasized that being a stout on defense shouldn't be a prerequisite for winning the award, saying, "James would be exhausted if he had to [play defense] at the level he's doing it offensively."
Paul George’s best case for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award is how he manages to be so effective and impactful offensively while also being one of the very best defensive players in the league.
However, in an exclusive interview with The Action Network, George said that candidates’ impact on the defensive end shouldn’t necessarily be a prerequisite for the award.
“I think the biggest thing that should be factored in is the guy that’s going to do whatever it takes to help his team win,” George said.
Not only that, but unprompted, George spoke on the case of the odds-on leader James Harden, and the kind of role he’s having to take with the Rockets while they deal with injuries to Chris Paul — who returned Sunday in a win over Orlando — and Clint Capela.
“I’ll speak on James’ case,” George said. “He’s the only guy that can create and do things [for the Rockets]. I think you have to account for the guy that’s going to do whatever it takes. And I think defense, when there’s a guy that’s willing to play on both ends and is relied on to score and to make plays offensively and at the same is relied on to get stops and guard the best guy on a nightly basis, [that] has to be accounted for, as well.
“But that’s not to take away from what James has done. To be honest, James would be exhausted if he had to [play defense] at the level he’s doing it offensively. He’s putting up 60 and they’re winning by 3 or 4. I just think it’s whatever [each] guy does to help his team win, that’s what should stand out for the MVP.”
Harden averaged 43.6 points per game in January, which is the most of any player in a month since 1963 (Wilt Chamberlin, 45.8).
George wouldn’t speak on his own MVP candidacy, preferring to focus on his teams’ success. The Thunder won their fifth in a row Sunday night with a monster victory over Milwaukee and George’s fellow MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, with George scoring 36 points along with 13 rebounds and 3 steals, while hitting eight 3-pointers in the win.
George followed that up with another virtuoso performance on Tuesday, scoring 37 points on 24 shots, while leading the Thunder to another win.
Harden remains the odds-on favorite to win MVP at most sportsbooks; Westgate currently has him at -500 odds, while George is 25-1.
Expect George’s chances to improve as his two-way impact continues to enter the conversation.