The Real MVP – James Harden

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has been awarding the best performing player of the regular season as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in their respected league since the 1955-56 season. The award has always been an on-going and fast-changing, controversial topic. It’s already been an exciting 2016-17 season for the NBA and with All-Star weekend approaching, the race to be named the next MVP is as competitive as ever!

LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and even Isaiah Thomas are just a couple of names that are thrown in the mix as MVP candidates but there are two names that sit on the top of the list as the two front-runners – James Harden and Russell Westbrook. These two former team mates possess a great amount of talent as they continue to lead their teams into the playoffs but who deserves it more?

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By Erik Drost – Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Obvious 

These are two players who stand as their teams’ lone star.

It’s also evident on the Western Conference standings that the Houston Rockets are placed at a higher rank than the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets currently hold the 3rd seed while the Thunder are at the 6th in the west.

So why should this rank matter? It’s not just a number. This is the one number that should matter. The placement of the teams’ success should reflect that team’s most valuable player. While yes, Westbrook has impressive stats, the fact remains that Harden is leading the Rockets to win consistently and playing a new position.

The Stats

It’s only right to give credit where credit is due and Westbrook deserves a whole different award. He’s been loyal OKC and didn’t choose the easy way out for a title but also for the numbers he’s put up this season, most notably placing himself on the list with the likes of Oscar Robertson for triple-doubles.

Here’s a quick breakdown of both players’ stats via the official NBA app as of February 2017:

Harden: 29.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 11.3 assists per game.

Westbrook: 30.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 10.1 assists per game.

The triple-doubles are amazing to look at but as it turned out, Westbrook was not selected as a starter for the upcoming 2017 NBA All-Star Game yet Harden was. Numbers don’t lie but do they really matter?

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By: Derral Chenderivative

Who should be the MVP?

Harden. The criteria to determine the MVP isn’t solely based on stats. Numbers just sound good but actually looking good takes the prize and that’s exactly what Harden is doing. How did a team that was ranked 8th seed in the west last season with a top center in Dwight Howard suddenly claim the 3rd seed this season? Harden is making the Rockets look better than ever.

It’s not enough to say the Rockets have a good enough team without Harden because before no one talked about players like Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Sam Dekker before they started playing with Harden. Honestly, Curry may have muddied up the criteria that should be considered in selecting an MVP. Curry has multiple all-star players such as Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on his team – he’s not working alone. Also, it’s hard to determine just exactly who is the second best player on the Rockets when the majority of the team’s average individually are almost identical to one another?

Previously mentioned, both Harden and Westbrook stand as the lone star of their teams but the fact remains and shows the Rockets have found better rhythm and chemistry and as a true MVP, their responsibility and criteria should lie on how the player carries his team to their highest potential.

This award could really go to anyone. The MVP award can sometimes be predictable – it could very well go straight to LeBron James or Stephen Curry again – but the two front-runners are neither on the teams that are ranked at 1st and 2nd seed, candidate Boston Celtic guard Isaiah Thomas is close to Harden-Westbrook status and he could very well snatch that title under everyone’s noses.

People love a good story and both Harden and Westbrook have an exciting one to tell with the race to become the next MVP.

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