The MVP Race Exposed
Heading into the season most of years the candidates for MVP are normally a list of select few. Unless a second-tier player goes ballistic on the league and enters the discussion. This season Isiah Thomas of the Celtics captivated us by his thrilling fourth quarter performances and being able to get to the rim at an elite level. His contract has one year left on it then what does Boston do with him??? Stay tuned. Kawai Leonard put up fantastic two way numbers to carry the Spurs to another dominating record and a potential Western Conference Finals date with the Warriors. Finally, we have LeBron James, who has put up another typical LeBron season looking as dominant as always. LeBron has the luxury of playing with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on a nightly basis in a weaker conference. If LeBron would have put up undeniable stats to make his case easier then he would have been written later in this piece. He is saving himself for the postseason and an unprecedented potential seventh straight finals appearance. All three of these guys gave themselves a good shot at MVP. This year, two guys are clear favorites and won’t be denied due to the unbeatable numbers they are putting up.
Second place James Harden: The engine that has made the high-powered Rockets offense go. Harden has been incredible all season long without rest except for Sunday’s game vs Phoenix when he missed his first game of the season. Harden is the best setup guard in the league. Nobody in the league could duplicate what Harden has done for Houston. Especially with the amount of perimeter passing that is required each night. What is most impressive watching Houston playing when the opposing team has a made basket the ball is in bounded to Harden he takes 2-3 dribbles and flings a laser across the court for a wide open three well before the defense can even know what hit them. This will be entertaining to see how well it withstands in a potential series with Golden State. Where their strategy will be to shoot 40+ threes a game and try to win the series on sheer volume. If Harden would of broke Nate Archibald’s record of leading the league in scoring and assists which was done in 1972-1973 season it would have been a tossup and no wrong choice for MVP. Unfortunately, Harden comes up as a close second to the bionic cyborg that is Russell Westbrook.
2016-2017 MVP Russell Westbrook: Ever since former MVP Kevin Durant left OKC for Golden State on the fourth of July. Russell Westbrook has done everything short of shooting a flaming ball from NBA Jam to have his team win as much as his supporting cast has allowed. Since opening night Head Coach Billy Donovan has let Westbrook run wild and he is right to deal with the peaks and valleys that come with that decision. Arguments against Westbrook is that his team’s record isn’t good enough, he is the biggest ball hog this season we have ever seen highest usage rate in NBA history, he only contests four shots per game so he can leave his man to grab the rebound. After a missed shot when Westbrook grabs the rebound he proceeds to lead the hardest fast break to stop in the league. Running like a gazelle to the rim and making split second decisions at a degree of difficulty that is unmatched makes Oklahoma City unstoppable in transition.
Like Harden, Westbrook isn’t asked to be a defensive stopper for his team to win. This is due to having to exert the maximum energy on the offensive end to get everybody involved and be the leading scorer every night. A long-standing NBA record is about to fall, not since the 1961-1962 season when Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double and had 41 triple doubles to go with a remarkable season. As of Sunday, Westbrook has 40 triple doubles and it would take a miracle for him not to average a triple double with six games left in the season. What Westbrook is accomplishing is nothing short of spectacular and shouldn’t be denied for this prestigious award just because he isn’t winning as many games as Harden. Once Westbrook seals the record and finishes averaging a triple double it would be one of the greatest conspiracies in league history if Harden wins. Westbrook is your MVP, thank you and drive right on through.