In recent seasons, MVP races have been something of a formality. This season, you can legitimately make a case for a handful of players around the Association. The Warriors are finally hitting on all cylinders thanks, in part, to more than one absurd performance from human inferno Klay Thompson. Anthony Davis is doing his best to drag the Pelicans to the playoffs out West, sitting on the league’s highest-ever PER as of this writing. And with the Cavs finally surging, LeBron James will have his say before all is said and done.

It’s the bearded wonder in Houston, though, who probably has the best case as league MVP through the first half of the season. James Harden has the Rockets in the thick of it in the Western Conference, no small feat considering its strength top to bottom, as well as the state of Houston’s roster throughout the season.

The case for Houston’s alpha dog stretches far and wide, from the help around him to the obscene numbers and his relative importance to the whole operation. It’s not an open-and-shut case—there wouldn’t be need for arguments otherwise—but it’s about as clear as it gets with this many players in the race. Before Harden and the league ascends upon Zoom City for All-Star Weekend, read on to see what qualities make him the MVP of the first half of the season.