by Andrew Pasquini, Sports 1140 KHTK
The NBA most valuable player race has been a point of hot debate with less than a week left in the season. There’s only four players that really have a chance at winning the MVP: LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard. Picking an MVP this season depends on what an individual values more whether it be triple-doubles, quality of play, importance to their own team, etc. With that being said, here’s my unofficial MVP ballot:
4. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Leonard is posting career highs in points (25.7) and assists (3.6) all while being the second best defensive player in the NBA (behind Draymond Green). He’s impressive, but not as much as these guys:
3. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
It seems like every season, James has his best season and could win MVP every year. This year is no difference as James is averaging 26.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game this season. If he maintains those numbers for the rest of the season, he’d have new career highs in rebounds and assist.
Now, to the two players that everybody is arguing about…
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
I see the argument as to why Westbrook should win the MVP, and a big part of that has to do with his triple-doubles. As it stands now, Westbrook has 41 triple-doubles which ties Oscar Robertson’s 1961-62 record for most in a season. However, the triple-double has been watered down in today’s NBA. There has been 110 triple-doubles in the NBA this season, breaking the previous NBA record of 78 set in 1988-89, which shows the triple-double is more common than it’s ever been. We look at a triple-double as this impressive feat in a single game, which it is, but anything close to it isn’t recognized.
For example, on Feb. 3 against the Bulls, Harden had a game where he finished with 42 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists. Westbrook has had eight triple-doubles this season where he finishes with exactly 10 assists. Why do we hold those eight games in a higher standard than Harden’s one game that he feel one assist short? Is it because there’s fancy name like a triple-double tied to it? Is Westbrook’s soon to be record season with triple-double’s impressive? Yes. Should it be where we end the MVP debate? Absolutely not.
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets
What I said about preference comes into play here and I’ve discussed the dropping value of the triple-double in Westbrook’s section, but Harden is my MVP. If you want to look at the triple-double stat as the end all be all stat, Harden averages 29.2 points per game, 8.1 rebounds, and 11.2 assists. Harden made the move from shooting guard to point guard this season under new head coach Mike D’Antoni and Harden has improved statistically in every category.
Directly comparing Harden to Westbrook, the latter averages 31.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assist per game. The only thing stopping Harden from averaging a triple-double is his rebounds. You can’t convince me that Westbrook deserves MVP over Harden because the triple-double average. Look at other stats as to why Harden has been better than Westbrook: while they turn the ball over about the same, Harden at 5.8 per game and Westbrook at 5.4, Harden is a better shooter, making 44% of his shots while Westbrook makes 42.5% while taking 409 more shots this season.