By Diego Vasquez | Contributing Writer

James Harden is the anticipated 2018 NBA MVP winner. (Courtesy of USA Today)

The 2017-2018 NBA regular season is coming to an end, and even though there are plenty of fans who just want the playoffs to begin, there is still time to look at which players have shined this season and deserve to be in the NBA Most Valuable Player discussion.

There have been numerous players this season that have been able to impress the world with their ability to score and lead their teams to victory, but some will still fall short of being in contention.

Players like Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry and Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving each built impressive numbers, but injuries have halted their momentum, with both being ruled out leading up to the playoffs.

Last season’s Finals MVP and Golden State’s Kevin Durant has, at times, carried the team in Curry’s absence, and he’s done that by averaging 26.5 PPG (points per game). But a mix of injuries and his league-leading five ejections have overtaken his achievements this season. As for his former teammate and last season’s MVP Russell Westbrook, despite almost averaging a triple-double this season or getting double digits in three different statistical categories, he has not been as vital to OKC this season as he was last year. Whether it be a dip in his production or the added star power of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, Westbrook has not been able to put together an MVP season again. All of these players are great, but they have not done enough to warrant the MVP.

Now, onto the players that should be in real contention for being named the 2017-2018 NBA MVP. Portland’s Damian Lillard has been a true leader for the team, averaging 26.7 PPG and leading the Trailblazers to victory in the fourth quarter of countless games with his excellent three-point shooting.

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo has continued to build off of an impressive season last year to become one of the most feared players in the league. His size and speed have made him “unguardable” at times, and averaging 27.1 PPG has helped the Bucks clinch a playoff spot once again.

This season, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis has shown why he is one of the best the league has to offer, especially after his teammate Demarcus Cousins went down injured. Not only has Davis averaged 28.1 PPG, the second most in the league, but he leads the league in blocks as well, showing that he is dominant on both sides of the court.

Cleveland’s LeBron James continues to amaze fans and players alike, putting together another MVP caliber season, even in his 15th year in the NBA. LeBron is averaging 27.5 PPG, has led the Cavs through a really tough period of uncertainty in February, and so far has been able to play in all games this season: an impressive feat at age 33.

Despite all of these amazing players, they will all fall short being named the MVP this season because of the unbelievable year that Houston’s James Harden has put up. Harden has averaged 30.6 PPG while still averaging 8.7 APG (assists per game), proving that he can both take hold of a game by himself and bring his teammates to another level. Countless game-winning performances have typified his season, as well as claiming the broken ankles of so many opponents, like Wesley Johnson. He has put up three 50-point triple-doubles, which is incredible considering he was very close to repeating that a few other times this season.

Although the Houston Rockets have an abundance of players that any of the lower teams in the NBA would wish they could have, James Harden has been the biggest key to Houston’s historic season thus far, which shows how valuable he is to a team that will be challenging for the NBA Championship.

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