With their latest matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston now in the rear view mirror, the MVP discussion hasn’t let up one bit. Russell Westbrook and James Harden have both put together spectacular seasons, making this NBA MVP race perhaps the best in history. They’ve both also solidified their cases on why they should win the MVP award.
The case for Westbrook is he’s leading a Thunder team that was supposed to be built around him and Kevin Durant, who departed for the Golden State Warriors last summer, to contend for years to come. Durant’s departure left Westbrook to pick up the pieces and he’s done that. In the comeback win against the Dallas Mavericks, Westbrook added triple double number 37 under his belt, closing in on Oscar Robertson’s record that he set during the 1961-62 season and that’s netting 41 triple doubles. Most thought that accomplishment would never be done again, but Westbrook has nine games left to make it happen, which is looking more promising by the day. Westbrook is averaging 31.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG and 10.4 APG. The assist total he’s averaging is his most impressive stat of all due to not having consistent three point shooting around him to work with. Without Westbrook, the Thunder would be a lottery team and that fact, along with his historic season, will be hard for voters and fans to ignore in the MVP discussion.
James Harden’s case is a bit different from Westbrook’s. Harden is carrying a team that had to retool this past offseason, adding Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon to provide floor spacing and instant offense. He’s also fully embraced becoming the leader of the Rockets and has them in position to possibly come out of the western conference this season. Under head coach Mike D’Antoni, Harden has also embraced being the point guard that’s needed for D’Antoni’s system to click. On the season, he’s averaging 29.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 11.3 APG, which are all career highs for him. What Harden also has going for him is the Rockets are 51-22, which is the third best record in the NBA. He has the Rockets in prime position to possibly come out of the western conference this season. That fact alone might just convince voters to go with Harden despite Westbrook’s historic season because the voters have been known to reward winning.
The MVP race between Westbrook and Harden has been great for the league because it honestly can go either way. Yeah, we also know that Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James will also be on the MVP ballot, but Westbrook and Harden have separated themselves from the pack. As the MVP race nears its conclusion, we’re going to be in for an exciting finish. So as fans of the game, let’s appreciate the greatness that they both bring to the table and celebrate it.
Photo Credit: Michael Wyke of The Associated Press