What does it mean to be the NBA Most Valuable Player? Does it require accolades? Wins? A record-setting season? What exactly are the requirements. These are the questions that makes this years race one of the more difficult in recent memory.
Russell Westbrook walked off the court in solemn after the Thunder’s 105-99 loss to the Houston Rockets, ending their season. Westbrook had a historic season to say the least. He averaged a triple-double (31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists), led the Thunder to a playoff berth as the No.6 seed with “no help”. Westbrook took the role as Batman this season after losing Kevin Durant. By leading his team in every statistical category, he made his case for MVP by saying numbers don’t lie.
Westbrook coincidentally met his MVP counterpart and former teammate James Harden in the first round of the playoffs. Harden in his own right had a career year with the Rockets. Harden averaged 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game this season as the Houston Rockets nabbed the No.3 seed in the West. In 9 head to head matchups (including the playoffs), the Rockets obliterated the Thunder 7-2 in their season/postseason series.
The MVP is not a team award by any means, it’s purely individualistic. But the impact that the player has on the team holds stake in the honoring of the award as well. Quite frankly, the Thunder would’ve been a lottery team without Westbrook. On the other had, so would the Rockets without Harden, even though it’s claimed that Westbrook has “no help”.
Contrary to popular belief, on paper the Thunder aren’t a horrible team. At the beginning of the season, Thunder big man Steven Adams was ranked as the no.36 player overall in the NBA. Adams was no slouch this season, he had a career high in points (11) and rebounds (7.7) per game. Key acquisitions occurred with Victor Oladipo (16 points per game) from the Orlando Magic and from the Chicago Bulls Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott. Giving Westbrook and the Thunder an arsenal that potentially could help them make a playoff run.
The style of ball they want to play, doesn’t rapport with the players that they have unfortunately. Resulting in Westbrook to either play superhuman-like or frantic and detrimental.
The Rockets use a system that idols a combination of the two teams that finished ahead of them in the West, the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. The Rockets look for the best available shot, which is often the three-pointer, helping them produce offensively potently. With scorers like Ryan Anderson, Lou Williams and Eric Gordon, the Rockets literally fire on all cylinders offensively. They don’t rely on their defense, they have an offense wins championships mentality led by coach Mike D’Antoni. Harden works in a puppeteers fashion with the offense, either setting up his teammates for open opportunities or slithering his way to the rim.
With the playoffs aside, the most valuable player in the league was determined weeks before the season was over. James Harden is the most valuable player because of the value he adds to everyone else on his team. The same could be said for LeBron James; Harden has that effect on his teammates. Harden breathes confidence into his teammates, whereas Westbrook is looked to bail out his. No shade to him, just the mind state that they have. It’s a reason they struggle when Westbrook goes to the bench, it’s because they’re lost without him.
Both players are deserving of the award by having remarkable seasons in their own right. Westbrook passed Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in a season and became a polarizing figure in the NBA. He will most likely be given the award based upon these accolades, and I’ll accept that. Harden led the Rockets to the 3rd best record in the same conference and has the Rockets as a dark horse to make the NBA Finals. He’s bringing the best out of role players, because he know he can’t do it by himself. If that’s not value, then let me know I’m wrong, I guess we will see soon enough.