And Then there Were Two
There has been much buzz surrounding this year’s NBA MVP race. There are technically four real candidates for the award this year, there are two superstars pictured above (Russell Westbrook and James Harden), as well as Kawhi Leonard and the ever relevant Lebron James. So, what exactly does being the NBA’s most valuable player entail? Does it go to the best player in the league? No, because Lebron James would win it every year, seeing as how he’s been the best player in the league shortly after entering it. Does it go to the most outstanding player, who dominates on both ends of the court? Not necessarily, one could argue that Kawhi and Lebron are better all-around players than the two pictured superstars. Harden’s inclusion in this race proves that lackluster defense can be overlooked providing there is outstanding offense. Is it the player who is most valuable to his team? Perhaps. Some say the award should go to the best player on the best team and generally that’s how it plays out. However, Russell Westbrook’s historic season cannot be ignored.
This season, Russell Westbrook did the unthinkable. No one was supposed to break Oscar Robertson’s incredible record of 41 triple-doubles in one season. In fact, it stood for over 50 years. Not only did he break Robertson’s record, but he joined him as the only other player in NBA history to average a triple-double over the duration of a season. After etching his name into the history books, how has he not run away with the MVP trophy? A couple of reasons, mostly his inferior supporting cast and the Beard himself.
Harden is having a great season in his own right. Leading one of the best teams in the league, Harden has averaged almost 30 points, over 11 assists a game and has 22 triple doubles to his name. Harden is one of the most prolific scorers the game has ever seen and he seems to do whatever he pleases on the court.
What a stroke of luck that we get to watch the front runners of the MVP race face off in the first round of the playoffs. With things starting to go south for Westbrook and the Thunder, they pulled off a tough win against the Rockets, avoiding a sweep and injecting hope into their team and fan base. One thing this series has made evident, is how vital Westbrook is to his team. No player has as much value to their team as he does. He didn’t break the triple-double record because he was chasing stats, it was out of necessity. Without Westbrook, his team would be vying for worst in the league, instead they’re the six seed in the challenging Western Conference. Harden’s team on the other hand, would probably still be a playoff caliber team, albeit not a title contender. For example, backup guards Lou Williams and Eric Gordon combined for 42 points in Game two, whereas the next highest scorer on the Thunder is starting Forward Andre Roberson, averaging 14 points a game in the playoffs. Both, Harden and Westbrook deserve consideration for this trophy, but I believe Westbrook’s historic season and irreplaceable value to his team give him the edge. For now, we can just enjoy these two future Hall of famers battle it out in the playoffs.