Any other year, under any other set of circumstances, James Harden would be the clear MVP of the league. He is having a season for the ages, averaging 29-11-8. He has made history as the first player to score and assist on 2,000 points this season (per sports center). Along with the fact he and Mike D’Antoni turned around the franchise coming from 8th place last year to now be 3rd in the western conference playoff this year, that says a lot.
Harden’s outrageous numbers are also resulting in wins. The only problem is, he’s caught in between two truisms for this years MVP voting. You either award single season success, in which Westbrook edges him out; or you award winning, and that goes to Kawhi.
Westbrook vs. Harden-Stats
Record, 42 triple doubles in a single season. The Thunder are 33-9 when he accomplished this, and he has been clutch all season long…This is value.
Harden was asked about MVP voting and said “I thought winning is what this is about, period”. However, context matters. Coming into the season, Harden got a better team built around him, down to the coaching. Westbrook lost Ibaka and one of the top 2 players in the league, yet still made the playoffs.
The level of difficulty faced in Westbrook’s MVP campaign is far higher than Hardens. in an pace and space era, the Thunder ranked 27th in three point percent. This means that being the league leader in points should be difficult, considering the paint is packed with defenders. For this same reason, averaging double digits assists would prove to be harder than Harden doing so as he’s on a team with 5 of the top 25 three point shooters in the league.
“If you take Russ off OKC, they’re the Brooklyn Nets”-Caron Butler
If we go back to the February 11th game that OKC lost to Golden State, it showed just how bottom tier Westbrook’s supporting cast is. Yet, just like Harden, they both have their team in a position to compete, playing each other in the first round of the playoffs. And even though Rockets are favorites, we have yet to see a playoff series that Harden has looked like his normal self, and I’ve seen bigger upsets.
The problem with this Hardens statement is, if he feels he should get the MVP award because he has a better record than Westbrook; he also opens the conversation to let in a guy with a better record but slightly worse stats.
Leonard vs. Harden-Record
Russ having a season for the ages, so is Harden, and even LeBron in his 14th year. Yet if Westbrook doesn’t win MVP, it should only be because of Kawhi Leonard. It’s only fair, you can’t give anyone of these guys the trophy over the other, and there’s no such thing as coMVP’s, so you gotta give it to the outlier who beats them all.
The Original Isaiah Thomas was quoted saying, “You can talk about Westbrook, you can talk about Harden… But at the end of the day, Kawhi Leonard is saying, every time I play against one of those guys, I win.”
Spurs have the 2nd best overall record in the NBA, and are 9-3 against top 3 teams and OKC. In Leonards 4 games against Harden, Kawhi’s averaging 29 points off 50% shooting. Not to be outdone, Harden is averaging 30-12-9 against Spurs. But we are talking about team success and Spurs are 3-1 against Hardens Rockets.
What Kawhi may lacks in stats, he more than makes up for it on the defensive side of the ball. The picture above is Kawhi’s game winning block on Harden, after hitting the game winning shot. Kawhi wins games, if Westbrook doesn’t get MVP cause Harden’s team is having more success, then you have to go with Leonard for the same reason. If you want to award Harden, get him in the presentation for Mike D’Antoni’s coach of the year award. And if LeBron he wants MVP, tell him to win the finals.