Harden vs. Westbrook and the MVP Race
The basic question we have to ask here is whether Westbrook has been the most valuable to his team through the supposed first half of the NBA season. With the Thunder having a 35–27 record and in the seventh spot in the Western Conference Playoff race, the answer is a yes. Sure Oklahoma City likely won’t be competing for an NBA title when the playoffs come calling. That’s not the point. Westbrook has his team playing competitive basketball mere months after it lost former MVP Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors in free agency. He’s doing so with an Orlando Magic castoff in Victor Oladipo helping lead the way in the backcourt. He’s also doing so with a rookie in Domantas Sabonis playing a substantial role after he was acquired with Oladipo in the Serge Ibaka trade. This is all taking place within the parameters of a Western Conference that remains top heavy. From a statistical perspective, Westbrook is doing something we haven’t seen in the NBA since the Oscar Robertson days. He’s legitimately averaging a triple-double at 30.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.2 assists per game. In fact, Russ has put up 30 triple-doubles on the season. To put this into perspective, LeBron James has 36 in his entire career. That alone should place Westbrook #1 on the list. Although, his own team could really be the ultimate let down to Westbrook, and his first NBA MVP award. Statistically speaking, Harden is having one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Here’s a dude that’s averaging 28.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 11.4 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 44 percent from the field, including a 35 percent mark from three-point distance. Those are some amazing stats right there. Though, stats themselves really shouldn’t be the primary determining factor when it comes to the MVP race. This is where Harden has surely picked his game up from season’s past. Houston currently has a 44–19 record and is the third seed in the Western Conference. This comes on the heels of the team sending Dwight Howard packing and replacing him with a variety of players, including Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon to fit into a new system under first-year head coach Mike D’Antoni. Most figured there would be a learning curve from Harden here. How would he fit into the new scheme? How would he work with the new supporting cast? Those questions have firmly been answered in the affirmative, making Harden one of the top MVP candidates heading into the unofficial second half of the season. In the end, I think Harden will end up with the trophy in his hands. He is truly the most valuable player on his team, and it shows on the team’s record. Mike D’Antoni really molded James Harden into the best player in the league, and my money is on the Beard to win MVP.