It’s a heated race to the finish for this year’s NBA MVP candidates.
In one corner we have Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook who is averaging 27.6 points per game with 7.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists, all without running mate Kevin Durant. Westbrook, who has 10 triple-doubles this season including eight after the All-Star break, is trying to keep the Thunder in the playoff picture as they sit in the No. 8 spot in the West a game and a half ahead of New Orleans with seven games to play.
In another corner we have Golden State’s Stephen Curry who is averaging 23.7 points per game with 4.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists. Curry and Warriors have a league-high 61 victories.
And then there’s the Beard, James Harden who scored a career-high 51 points on Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings.
Harden is averaging 27.6 points per game with 5.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists for a Houston Rockets team that is tied for second in the Western Conference with Memphis, 10.5 games behind Golden State.
The question is, why would Harden be more deserving than Westbrook or Curry for the MVP award? First of all, despite Westbrook’s great season (the best of his career), his team may not even make the playoffs. And as for Curry, even though he will probably win the award, he is also playing with a better supporting cast than Harden. No offense Dwight Howard.
So what does Harden bring to the table? How about a league leading 33 30-point games this season, including nine 40-point games. And he is still the master at getting to the free throw line, especially when the game is on the line. In 30 games this season, Harden has attempted more than 10 free throws.
“He finds a way to wow our team every time he goes out there,” said teammate Trevor Ariza. “He’s just so crafty and he scores in so many different ways, it’s definitely fun to watch.”
On Wednesday, Harden went 16-of-25 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the 3-point stripe to go along with his 11-of-13 performance from the free-throw line.
When asked if Harden has done enough to win the MVP award, Rockets coach Kevin McHale said, “Yeah, I think he’s played great for us. As I’ve said all year long, we don’t have the record that we have if James doesn’t play at the level that he’s at. Every year — I’ve said this a million times — every year, it’s two or three guys that play at a really, really high level and there are the guys that they talk about.
“Sometimes you will have an unusual year and we’ll have four or five guys and normally it’s two or three guys and he’s one of those two or three guys. I guess it’s all a matter of do you like vanilla ice cream? Do you like Neapolitan? Do you like strawberry? Do you like chocolate? I don’t know. Everybody is going to see different things. I don’t vote.”
I know what I see. It’s clear that James Harden should be this year’s NBA MVP.