NBA MVP Race: James Harden vs. Russell Westbrook

Disclaimer: Westbrook fan since 11’ so you likely know which way I’m going with this

This year, the MVP race is as hot as it has ever been. There have been four names that have been constantly mentioned to be possible candidates; Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Lebron James. From this list James is the only player to ever win an MVP award. Although all four of these players have had outstanding seasons, there are two that have been simply extraordinary and unlike anything the league has seen. Past teammates, their names are James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

James Harden

Houston at Philadelphia

When coach Mike D’Antoni came into Houston, from the first day in the office he let James Harden know that he’d be playing point guard. And it’s safe to say that it is the best thing to happen to James Harden’s career. He is nearly averaging a triple double with 29.2 ppg, 11.2 apg and 8.1 rpg. His ball sharing has increased since last season as he increased his apg since last year by 3.5 and he leads the league in assists with 852 and counting on the season.

When people give their reason as to why James Harden will edge out Russell Westbrook for the MVP award this season we all get the same answer, because of his teams position.

The Houston Rockets are currently 3rd in the west with a 55-23 record. They have already clinched the playoffs as the third seed. It is likely that the Rockets will finish the season with 55 wins while the Thunder will finish under 50 wins.

The position of a player’s team has always been an important factor in determining the MVP. And we can’t deny that Houston is the better team with better chances in taking home a Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season. But we can’t deny the fact that the Rockets have the better roster.

Houston has always run a “read and react offense” but this year the rockets have run a more unique offense under coach D’Antoni, they have grown accustomed to what it known as a “spread pick-and-roll system” where the PG (Harden) brings the ball down and to his wings two shooters are there while the two big men move around near the edges of the FT line. This isolates Harden with one defender and that’s when he is his best as he lead the league last year with 566 isolation plays. And the beauty of this system is when Harden drives w a screen he has the options of either taking it all the way, dumping it to the big men or if the corner shooter isn’t defended he dishes out to him. And with shooters like Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon, Harden knows how and when to take advantage.  

All that summarized, James Harden is one of the most talented players of our generation and this season he has been one of the best overall players but some of his success can be credited to the system he is in. Again, don’t want to discredit the phenomenal player he is but we also have to give credit to the system he plays in.

Russell Westbrook

Oklahoma City at Orlando

Russell Westbrook has been the hottest player in the league this season.

Yes, I know who James Harden is. Yes, I know he’s been amazing as well this season.

Hear me out.

Russell Westbrook became the leader of the team when its biggest star at that time left them because he wanted a ring so bad that he wanted one handed to him.

Yes, I’m saying Kevin Durant is a sellout.

He voluntarily became the leader and made OKC his team, his responsibility. His loyalty to his team was extended as just a month after he was betrayed by whom he considered to be his brother, he signed an $85 million dollar extension and stated “Nowhere else I’d rather be than Oklahoma City.”

Enough talk about the off season, now let’s dig into some of Westbrook’s success this season.

The strongest component on his star-studded season: he’s averaging a triple double.

Westbrook is averaging 31.8ppg, 10.4apg and 10.7 rpg. He leads the league in scoring, leads all point guards in rebounds with over 5 a game and is 3rd in the league in assists per game. Westbrook has played in all 78 games this season and in 41 of those games racked up a triple double, that ties Oscar “The Big O”  Robertson’s record for most triple doubles in one season. He was 1 rebound away from breaking that record Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies but it’d be a safe bet to say that he will get it before the season is over.

It’s not just his numbers and his triple doubles that makes him a strong candidate for this years MVP award but also his determination and his leadership.

What Russell is doing is simply amazing because of who he has on his team while Harden has way more help. While most ppl said that the thunder won’t even make the playoffs without KD and that Russell needs KD to be successful.

Westbrook always shows up in games when they’re down. He’s a winner and winners hate losing. And he did hate losing and we see that night in and night out as he’d show up leading the pack as energetic as ever.

In late march he led a comeback against the Magic putting up 57 points, 11 assists and 13 rebounds setting a record for the most points scored on a triple double. He nearly led his team to a comeback against the Rockets after scoring 18 in the 4th and a only a day later, on a back to back game he rallied his team to beat the Mavericks after being down 18.

Russell Westbrook is the pure definition of a leader.

One of the most repeated reasons for him not taking home the award is his turnovers problem. But little do they know that the “bearded one” averages 5.8 turnovers per game while Westbrook averages 5.4. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I know it’s not that much but if people are so concerned with Westbrook’s ball security, they should worry just as much about Harden’s so the whole turnover argument is invalid because the MVP award will be going to either one of these players.

He was robbed of the All-Star start and I know for sure that the panel is not going to let this slip. How many more backboard does he have to destroy? How many more records does he have to break? How many more triple doubles does he need to put up?

Mark my words, Russell Westbrook III will be the 2016-17 Most Valuable Player of the year.

 

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