March 3, 2024

Making the Case: James Harden for MVP

Russell Westbrook’s stats are undeniable, but here is why James Harden should be MVP.

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Russell Westbrook has had one of the most historic seasons in NBA history, tying Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in a season and becoming only the second player in the league’s history to average a triple-double (Robertson is the other). However, James Harden is being vastly overlooked in his ability to lead the Rockets back to relevancy.

Here are three reasons why Harden deserves the MVP:

Efficiency

Westbrook’s triple-doubles may be impressive, but his lack of efficiency is the strongest argument against his campaign. Allen Iverson had the most field goal attempts in a season with 1,940 and averaged 42 minutes a game. Westbrook is on pace to break that record with four games remaining and he averages just 34 minutes per contest. James Harden has attempted nearly 400 less shots than Westbrook and averages only three fewer points. And it’s not just shooting. Harden is leading the league in assists per game and is the orchestrator of a much more proficient offense than Westbrook.

Supporting Cast

As said before, Harden is the leader in assists per game and it has made his teammates look much better than they are. Harden, who is averaging just over 11 assists per game, has six teammates that average over 10 points per game. This includes Lou Williams and Eric Gordan, who each average 15-plus points per game.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City only has three players outside of Westbrook that average over 10 points per game, with Victor Oladipo the only one averaging over 15. But the argument that Harden has more to work with is simply false. If anything, their supporting casts are equal.

Harden has Gordon, who is not what he once was, and Williams, a sixth man. Alongside them is a frontcourt comprising of Clint Capela and Ryan Anderson. Westbrook has Oladipo, a rising star, and consistent big men in Enes Kanter and Steven Adams. Plus, Andre Roberson is one of the best defensive players in the league.

Winning

No matter the stats that either of these players put up, nothing matters more than winning. While it may not seem like much, Harden and the Rockets have reached the 53-win plateau in a season where they weren’t expected to do much. The Thunder have just 45 wins and will not hit the 50-win mark. Houston is essentially locked into the three seed in the Western Conference right now, while the Thunder are likely to enter the playoffs as a six seed. This perfectly sets up the two MVP candidates for a series and a chance to see who really deserves the trophy. The Rockets are also 3-1 against the Thunder this season. That alone says something. Westbrook even outscored Harden in each game against Rockets, which shows that while Westbrook may stuff the stat sheet, Harden is more focused on winning.

Edited by David Bradford

Featured image by Keith Allison

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