The NBA MVP conversation is a very intriguing one. Nearly all season, James Harden and Russell Westbrook were the frontrunners, with nearly no disagreement on that. They’re both extremely valuable to their respective teams, and if you take either one of them away, the teams struggle without a doubt.
If you look at purely statistics, Westbrook averaged a triple-double with relative ease and Harden averaged a double-double with points and assists with 8.1 rebounds per game. You could argue that with the green light that Westbrook had, anyone could average a triple-double, and you probably wouldn’t be wrong. You could also argue that MVP doesn’t come down to just statistics, and again, you probably wouldn’t be wrong. Except for the fact that MVP isn’t your choice. It’s the media’s and players’, and others’ choice. And the media loves stats. However, Westbrook isn’t the MVP on purely stats alone.
Russell Westbrook had a phenomenal season, and there’s no denying it. He had the most triple-doubles in a single season in NBA history, as well as averaging a triple-double. He is the MVP, but not just because of the stats. If you take Westbrook away from the Thunder, you’d likely struggle to name any of their other players. I’m not a massive basketball fan, and I can only think of Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams. Not to say that they don’t have good basketball players on the roster, but they certainly don’t have another star on their roster. Take Westbrook away, you likely lose 10+ wins, he fills a huge role for the Thunder that is not easily replaceable.
James Harden also had a great season, and again, there’s no denying it. He averaged 29.1 points per game, along with 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds. If you take Harden away from the Rockets, they have a player in Eric Gordon that, while not performing as well as Harden, could average 20+ points and 5+ assists assuming he starts. The Rockets have also got players like Patrick Beverly, Ryan Anderson, Nene, Trevor Ariza, and Lou Williams. All very competent players that would be able to lessen the blow if you take Harden from the Rockets. Overall, they’d likely lose anywhere from 3 to 8 wins, Harden plays a massive role for the Rockets, but not nearly as large as the one Westbrook plays for the Thunder.
The MVP shouldn’t be based purely off of stats, Westbrook would run away with it if that were the case. But looking at the teams respective rosters, it makes you think about just how close the MVP race really isn’t. Harden carried the Rockets to their record, but he had a very strong supporting cast. Westbrook had anything but, he put the Thunder on his back and carried them to the playoffs. Westbrook is far more valuable to the Thunder than Harden is to the Rockets. In and of itself, that should make him the MVP.