NBA Discussion; Harden or Westbrook? – 30th March 2017

This years MVP race has been one of the closest in NBA history, at least in recent history anyway. Players like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and even Isaiah Thomas are in the conversation for the greatest individual award this season, and are creating their own campaigns for why they deserve the award through their outstanding play in the league. LeBron is, well LeBron, Kawhi is one of the greatest two way players in the league currently, and Isaiah is proving his doubters wrong with his spectacular performances in the 4th quarter of tight games. But there’s really only two true competitors for the 2016-2017 MVP award, and I shouldn’t even have to say who are they, but I will anyway. Russell Westbook and James Harden are the clear contenders for MVP this season, with both point guards basically carrying their entire teams on their shoulders, racing to playoff spots despite the doubts both teams received at the beginning of the season. But who deserves the MVP award, Harden or Westbrook?

*Before I begin I should clarify that my decision on this years MVP is my personal opinion, and should not be taken as an experts thoughts in any way. I don’t wish to aggravate any fans of either player, please don’t kill me.*

Both Harden and Westbrook are phenomenal players, their ability to carry what would otherwise be extremely weak teams, which were both predicted to be lottery teams, is unmatched by almost any other player in the league, and is certainly not comparable at the level of sheer amazement they display on a nightly basis. Harden is currently leading votes for the award, according to the #KIAMVPRace on the NBA Facebook page, with an astonishing 40% of the votes over his peers. But with still 9 games to go before the end of the season, and Westbrook being only 5 triple doubles away from beating Oscar Robinson’s NBA record of 41, The Beard’s MVP campaign is definitely not a done deal.

Westbrook is having one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history, averaging 31 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 10.4 APG, that being a triple double, which obviously is the main argument for Russ’ MVP case. This sensational feat has only been achieved once before, when Oscar Robinson did so back in 1962. But The Big O also lost out on the MVP award that season, despite averaging a triple double, when he finished third behind Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged over 50 points and 25 rebounds, and Bill Russell, the winner of the award and NBA title of that season. His ability to carry an otherwise extremely awful OKC Thunder is what puts him in this top two front-runner for MVP. What he lacks in defence, he more than makes up for it with his explosive offensive capabilities. Despite being criticised for being a ‘ballhog,’ as stated by almost every nobody on Twitter, Westbrook actually has pretty phenomenal vision, I mean, did you see his crazy half-court pass to Oladipo that went through the defender’s legs? You can’t be a poor passer and manage to pull a pass like that off in-game. And maybe he does force his stats a little, particularly in the rebounding front when you see the likes of Adams and Kanter just allow him to rebound the ball over them, but wouldn’t you if you had the chance to break a 55 year-old, nearly impossible record? Of course you would. Westbrook has this weird knack for making everything he does look extremely difficult, what with the crazy layups and pull-up threes from stupidly deep range. He seems to always be in full charge mode, for example, Sports Illustrated journalist Ben Golliver made a great point about the difference between Harden and Westbrook, basically saying that Harden makes everything he does seem so easy, gliding up and down the court, while Westbrook just looks freakishly athletic with this ability to do the impossible, which is why most casual NBA fans would choose Westbrook over Harden. This obviously makes a lot of sense, these, what are they called, ‘highlight watchers,’ only watch out for spectacular plays as their motive for choosing an MVP, and when you look at Russell Westbrook’s highlights, they seem a hell of a lot more impressive than Harden’s.

But let’s look at his flaws. Obviously, Russ is the Thunder’s go-to-guy down the stretch of close games, so naturally, his usage rate skies when this is the case. And let’s be completely honest, he hits some incredible shots in clutch time, last night, for example, he hit that crazy pull-up three off the glass from about 10 or 11 feet behind the line to send the game to overtime against the Mavs, and then continued to take over and secure the W for the second close Thunder game this week. But he is heavily flawed in failing to trust his team mates in close moments, settling for a contested three to seal the deal, rather than passing the ball to another Thunder player who is, in most cases, in a better position. He doesn’t necessarily make his team mates better like a LeBron or James Harden, which is probably why he wasn’t heavily voted for by players in the All Star voting, because, as sad as it is to say, he just isn’t a great team mate. No doubt, Westbrook is when of the most passionately driven players in NBA history, and his desire to win is second only to playoff LeBron James, and as an individual, he’s extremely good at taking over games when it matters. But he’s not like James Harden, he can’t take less than average team mates and turn them into a second or third seed team. Yes, he makes the Thunder better, but only by his individual performances night in and night out, which is why his team are now looking at the bottom end of the playoff picture, while his peers are sitting comfortably with clinched playoff spots. His inability to make his team mates better players is why he has to do everything himself, unlike Harden’s ability to do so with an otherwise equally bad team, and is why, for me, Westbrook just is not the MVP this season. You can talk about his turnovers and missed shots when criticising Westbrook, but the two leading MVP vote getters are also the highest ranked in TOPG, mainly because of their huge usage rates, so for me, the main argument against Russ’ MVP campaign is that, his team are sitting in the 6th seed in the West, which obviously isn’t the worse place they could be considering their projections at the start of the season, but his inability to improve the play of his team, as a team, is why they won’t move from that sixth seed, and why Harden is my choice, as both a fan of the Houston Rockets and of the NBA in general, for the MVP for this season.

I’ll probably take some backlash for my choice of Harden as MVP, because, like I said, I am a Rockets fan, which probably makes me slightly biased, but he is receiving 40% of fan votes for the award, so I’m definitely not the only one considering him the clear winner. The Beard is averaging 29.3 PPG, 8 RPG, combined the assist leader with 11.4 per game, which is, while obviously not as good statistically as Westbrook’s triple double average, is still off the charts. I mean, Harden could probably get those extra 2 rebounds a game if Clint Capela did what Adams and Kanter do with Westbrook, and just allowed Harden to grab a couple of extra boards each game, but I doubt those rebounds are as important to Harden as winning is, which he and the Rockets are doing at a fairly better rate the Westbrook’s Thunder, being 9 games ahead of them in the standings. This has gotten them to the 3rd seed in a tough Western Conference, and clinched them a playoff spot over two weeks ago. When watching a Rockets game, it’s almost instantly clear that Harden has this unique ability to connect with the players around, an ability seen in LeBron and Chris Paul, which is pretty special considering he doesn’t even have a years experience as a point guard. He makes his team mates better, and despite him being a scorer at heart, he’s adapted that dimer vision, which allows him to find his team mates even, when driving to the board, which is why he’s became so skilled at the pass and kick tendency we saw so often from him. He and the Rockets are leading the season series against the Thunder 2-1, which automatically gives him a standing point over Westbrook. Like I said earlier, Harden has this crazy ability to make everything he does seem so easy, which is why he’s overlooked as the MVP, because, when you look at Westbrook’s highlights, Harden’s almost don’t seem like highlights as he just glides around the court, sliding off pick and rolls and throwing effortless lobs to Clint Capela, or firing a bullet to a corner shooter like Ariza or Anderson. For this reason alone, I believe Harden could be, no, should be, MVP. And yes, he’s turnover prone, but as is Westbrook, so that argument is kind of invalid here. And the argument that ‘James Harden plays no defence,’ also can’t be used this year, because, for the first time I’ve seen in a season, Harden is actually playing decent defence, and while it not be better than Westbrook’s, it certainly isn’t worse. And I know, the MVP award is based on regular season performance, but if you had to take the Thunder or the Rockets for the NBA Finals come April, who would you take? For me, the choice of that battle, and the battle for MVP, is quite clearly the Rockets and James Harden.

I’ve made my case for why I believe Harden is more deserving for MVP this year, but, to be quite honest, I wouldn’t be mad if either of these players won the award, because, quite frankly, they’re both extremely deserving. Like NBA legend Kobe Byrant said, we could have co-MVP’s this season. Let me know who you think should be the MVP down below, and why. Follow my blog for more NBA Discussions, and check out my Twitter for my general shite posting. Enjoy your day!

This years MVP race has been one of the closest in NBA history, at least in recent history anyway. Players like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and even Isaiah Thomas are in the conversation for the greatest individual award this season, and are creating their own campaigns for why they deserve the award through their outstanding play in the league. LeBron is, well LeBron, Kawhi is one of the greatest two way players in the league currently, and Isaiah is proving his doubters wrong with his spectacular performances in the 4th quarter of tight games. But there’s really only two true competitors for the 2016-2017 MVP award, and I shouldn’t even have to say who are they, but I will anyway. Russell Westbook and James Harden are the clear contenders for MVP this season, with both point guards basically carrying their entire teams on their shoulders, racing to playoff spots despite the doubts both teams received at the beginning of the season. But who deserves the MVP award, Harden or Westbrook?

*Before I begin I should clarify that my decision on this years MVP is my personal opinion, and should not be taken as an experts thoughts in any way. I don’t wish to aggravate any fans of either player, please don’t kill me.*

Both Harden and Westbrook are phenomenal players, their ability to carry what would otherwise be extremely weak teams, which were both predicted to be lottery teams, is unmatched by almost any other player in the league, and is certainly not comparable at the level of sheer amazement they display on a nightly basis. Harden is currently leading votes for the award, according to the #KIAMVPRace on the NBA Facebook page, with an astonishing 40% of the votes over his peers. But with still 9 games to go before the end of the season, and Westbrook being only 5 triple doubles away from beating Oscar Robinson’s NBA record of 41, The Beard’s MVP campaign is definitely not a done deal.

Westbrook is having one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history, averaging 31 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 10.4 APG, that being a triple double, which obviously is the main argument for Russ’ MVP case. This sensational feat has only been achieved once before, when Oscar Robinson did so back in 1962. But The Big O also lost out on the MVP award that season, despite averaging a triple double, when he finished third behind Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged over 50 points and 25 rebounds, and Bill Russell, the winner of the award and NBA title of that season. His ability to carry an otherwise extremely awful OKC Thunder is what puts him in this top two front-runner for MVP. What he lacks in defence, he more than makes up for it with his explosive offensive capabilities. Despite being criticised for being a ‘ballhog,’ as stated by almost every nobody on Twitter, Westbrook actually has pretty phenomenal vision, I mean, did you see his crazy half-court pass to Oladipo that went through the defender’s legs? You can’t be a poor passer and manage to pull a pass like that off in-game. And maybe he does force his stats a little, particularly in the rebounding front when you see the likes of Adams and Kanter just allow him to rebound the ball over them, but wouldn’t you if you had the chance to break a 55 year-old, nearly impossible record? Of course you would. Westbrook has this weird knack for making everything he does look extremely difficult, what with the crazy layups and pull-up threes from stupidly deep range. He seems to always be in full charge mode, for example, Sports Illustrated journalist Ben Golliver made a great point about the difference between Harden and Westbrook, basically saying that Harden makes everything he does seem so easy, gliding up and down the court, while Westbrook just looks freakishly athletic with this ability to do the impossible, which is why most casual NBA fans would choose Westbrook over Harden. This obviously makes a lot of sense, these, what are they called, ‘highlight watchers,’ only watch out for spectacular plays as their motive for choosing an MVP, and when you look at Russell Westbrook’s highlights, they seem a hell of a lot more impressive than Harden’s.

But let’s look at his flaws. Obviously, Russ is the Thunder’s go-to-guy down the stretch of close games, so naturally, his usage rate skies when this is the case. And let’s be completely honest, he hits some incredible shots in clutch time, last night, for example, he hit that crazy pull-up three off the glass from about 10 or 11 feet behind the line to send the game to overtime against the Mavs, and then continued to take over and secure the W for the second close Thunder game this week. But he is heavily flawed in failing to trust his team mates in close moments, settling for a contested three to seal the deal, rather than passing the ball to another Thunder player who is, in most cases, in a better position. He doesn’t necessarily make his team mates better like a LeBron or James Harden, which is probably why he wasn’t heavily voted for by players in the All Star voting, because, as sad as it is to say, he just isn’t a great team mate. No doubt, Westbrook is when of the most passionately driven players in NBA history, and his desire to win is second only to playoff LeBron James, and as an individual, he’s extremely good at taking over games when it matters. But he’s not like James Harden, he can’t take less than average team mates and turn them into a second or third seed team. Yes, he makes the Thunder better, but only by his individual performances night in and night out, which is why his team are now looking at the bottom end of the playoff picture, while his peers are sitting comfortably with clinched playoff spots. His inability to make his team mates better players is why he has to do everything himself, unlike Harden’s ability to do so with an otherwise equally bad team, and is why, for me, Westbrook just is not the MVP this season. You can talk about his turnovers and missed shots when criticising Westbrook, but the two leading MVP vote getters are also the highest ranked in TOPG, mainly because of their huge usage rates, so for me, the main argument against Russ’ MVP campaign is that, his team are sitting in the 6th seed in the West, which obviously isn’t the worse place they could be considering their projections at the start of the season, but his inability to improve the play of his team, as a team, is why they won’t move from that sixth seed, and why Harden is my choice, as both a fan of the Houston Rockets and of the NBA in general, for the MVP for this season.

I’ll probably take some backlash for my choice of Harden as MVP, because, like I said, I am a Rockets fan, which probably makes me slightly biased, but he is receiving 40% of fan votes for the award, so I’m definitely not the only one considering him the clear winner. The Beard is averaging 29.3 PPG, 8 RPG, combined the assist leader with 11.4 per game, which is, while obviously not as good statistically as Westbrook’s triple double average, is still off the charts. I mean, Harden could probably get those extra 2 rebounds a game if Clint Capela did what Adams and Kanter do with Westbrook, and just allowed Harden to grab a couple of extra boards each game, but I doubt those rebounds are as important to Harden as winning is, which he and the Rockets are doing at a fairly better rate the Westbrook’s Thunder, being 9 games ahead of them in the standings. This has gotten them to the 3rd seed in a tough Western Conference, and clinched them a playoff spot over two weeks ago. When watching a Rockets game, it’s almost instantly clear that Harden has this unique ability to connect with the players around, an ability seen in LeBron and Chris Paul, which is pretty special considering he doesn’t even have a years experience as a point guard. He makes his team mates better, and despite him being a scorer at heart, he’s adapted that dimer vision, which allows him to find his team mates even, when driving to the board, which is why he’s became so skilled at the pass and kick tendency we saw so often from him. He and the Rockets are leading the season series against the Thunder 2-1, which automatically gives him a standing point over Westbrook. Like I said earlier, Harden has this crazy ability to make everything he does seem so easy, which is why he’s overlooked as the MVP, because, when you look at Westbrook’s highlights, Harden’s almost don’t seem like highlights as he just glides around the court, sliding off pick and rolls and throwing effortless lobs to Clint Capela, or firing a bullet to a corner shooter like Ariza or Anderson. For this reason alone, I believe Harden could be, no, should be, MVP. And yes, he’s turnover prone, but as is Westbrook, so that argument is kind of invalid here. And the argument that ‘James Harden plays no defence,’ also can’t be used this year, because, for the first time I’ve seen in a season, Harden is actually playing decent defence, and while it not be better than Westbrook’s, it certainly isn’t worse. And I know, the MVP award is based on regular season performance, but if you had to take the Thunder or the Rockets for the NBA Finals come April, who would you take? For me, the choice of that battle, and the battle for MVP, is quite clearly the Rockets and James Harden.

I’ve made my case for why I believe Harden is more deserving for MVP this year, but, to be quite honest, I wouldn’t be mad if either of these players won the award, because, quite frankly, they’re both extremely deserving. Like NBA legend Kobe Byrant said, we could have co-MVP’s this season. Let me know who you think should be the MVP down below, and why. Follow my blog for more NBA Discussions, and check out my Twitter for my general shite posting. Enjoy your day!