Published On: Thu, Aug 25th, 2016

Beverley expects Harden to win MVP, lead Rockets to Finals

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Mark L. Baer / USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets are looking to wash out the taste of a bitter 2015-16 campaign. And while the team will certainly have a different look this season – with a handful of new rotation players and a new head coach – its prospects for a bounceback ultimately still rest with James Harden.

In one year, Harden went from MVP runner-up for a 56-win conference finalist to a defensive laughingstock for one of the most disappointing, dour, dysfunctional teams in the league. Though his new signature shoe has been received less than kindly, the Rockets are expecting a return to form for Harden – and subsequently, the team – this season.

Of what he expects from his longtime teammate, Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley told Oliver Maroney of Basketball Insiders, “MVP and leading us to the Finals. Simple.”

It’s worth noting that Harden was still among the league’s best offensive players last season, averaging career highs in points (29), rebounds (6.1), and assists (7.5), while playing the full 82-game slate and leading the league in minutes. But thanks to some combination of his poor defensive metrics and body language, interminably bad locker-room buzz, and the Rockets’ overall struggles, Harden’s gaudy numbers weren’t enough to land him on an All-NBA team.

Though the sentiment seemed to emerge that he was an unfit leader for a team with championship aspirations, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is hearing none of it.

“He’s only a polarizing figure to people who don’t watch,” Morey told Maroney. “Players voted him MVP (in 2014-15) for a reason. He’s had a winning team every season of his career, with multiple Conference Finals appearances.”

Beverley said much the same.

“James is like a brother to me, so I’ve seen him improve each year in (regards to) him being a leader,” he said.

Harden, for his part, seems determined to help himself and his teammates reclaim their place in the league’s upper echelon.

“People are definitely overlooking us and we kind of have the underdog mindset, which is fine for us because we’re going to work that much harder, come together even tighter, and we’re all going to be on the same page,” he said. “We’ll let the chips fall where they may, but starting with this summer and into training camp, we’re going to be all-in. We’re going to have the same goal, and that’s to win. We’ll do whatever it takes.”

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