The NBA MVP is coming down to being between Russell Westbrook and James Harden. To be clear, LeBron James should win MVP this year and every year, but popular opinion has shifted to Harden and Westbrook. With that in mind, James Harden should be this season’s MVP.
Objectively, Harden has had a superior season. He’s had a higher field-goal percentage, an ever-so-slightly better free-throw percentage and a better three-point percentage. Perhaps the most compelling stat is this: Houston has eight more wins than Oklahoma City.
So who was more valuable?
The Rockets have the third seed in the Western Conference. The Thunder have the sixth. Harden has put his team in a better position for success.
That isn’t to take away from Westbrook’s incredible individual achievements. Earlier this week he shattered Oscar Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in a season. It’s a record that has stood for 55 years. Westbrook’s season is nothing short of incredible.
But he’s playing basketball – not golf. If he were Tiger Woods, if he were Serena Williams, if individual greatness won him a championship, I'd be all for it. But Westbrook's individual success is only as powerful as the success of his team. A team that is also actively avoiding rebounds so Westbrook can pad his stats.
Bob LeveyGetty Images
When you compare results, the MVP clearly is Harden’s
Harden has accounted for almost as many points per game than Westbrook, while taking nearly 400 fewer shots. He also leads the league in assists. If Harden wins the MVP, he wouldn’t be the first star under Mike D’Antoni to do so. Steve Nash won two MVP awards with D’Antoni in 2005 and 2006.
Harden’s numbers crush Nash’s. They aren’t even close. Harden is averaging 29 points per game. Nash averaged just under 19 points both years he was MVP. Harden is averaging over 11 assists and eight rebounds per game. Nash averaged 11 and 3.75 during his MVP years.
When you stack the numbers and compare results, the MVP clearly is Harden’s. But any remaining doubts should be put to rest quite soon, as the Thunder and Rockets face off in the first round of the NBA playoffs.