Harden vs. Westbrook: The MVP debate

Steven Shrenkel, Staff Writer

As another NBA season comes to a close, the MVP race has been whittled down to just two players. These two players are Houston Rockets guard James Harden and Oklahoma City Thunder guard, Russell Westbrook.

These two players have displayed excellence all throughout the regular season and both have punched tickets to the NBA playoffs. They have simply been on another level compared to the rest of the league. The Rockets ended up finishing as the third seed in the Western Conference while the Thunder finished sixth.

This has established the hot debate now of whether Harden or Westbrook deserve to be crowned the MVP. Each candidate is a compelling choice, but a lot of people have Westbrook locked up as the MVP without question. I’m here to challenge that notion and consider the unthinkable. I simply believe that Harden deserves the MVP.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in just as awe as you are of the incredible season that Westbrook is having. He averaged a triple double for the season, and that is absolutely amazing. To put this in perspective, no player has done this in 55 years. Who was the last player to do this? Oscar Robertson, “The Big O” in the 1961-’62 with the Cincinnati Royals (ESPN).

On top of that, Westbrook has broken Oscar Robertson’s triple-double record with 43 triple-doubles to his name this season (ESPN). Robertson had 41. These are great individual achievements. That’s the issue though, they’re individual achievements.

Westbrook’s individual success is only as powerful as his team’s success. While they wouldn’t be where they are without Westbrook, they also help to pad his stats as well. Watch a Thunder game from this past season, and you can actively see Westbrook’s teammates avoiding rebounds so he can increase his count. MVP stands for “most valuable player”, a notion that I believe many people are forgetting.

When you compare the results of Westbrook and Harden, I believe the MVP award goes to the bearded one. Many people don’t enjoy watching Harden’s game. He is excellent at drawing fouls and people don’t really appreciate this ability. There are also continued outdated takes on his defensive prowess. Yes, he used to be a liability on the defensive end, but that was the past. He’s improved on that end of the court tremendously.

Harden simply elevates the play of all of his teammates. He has helped the Rockets cement themselves not only as the third seed in the Western Conference, but serious title contenders as well. Nobody pegged the Rockets as doing as well as they did this season, and that can be attributed to Harden’s elevated play. The Rockets have become a dominant team because of him and the plays he creates for his team.

The Rockets offense this season has been one of the ten best in NBA history (NBA Reference). It has every type of scoring, with Harden dead center in the middle of it all. Houston is the most efficient cutting team (NBA.com).

Sixth man guard Eric Gordon has resurged his career in Harden’s company along with forward Ryan Anderson after leaving the New Orleans Pelicans. They also get more wide-open three point attempts than anyone in the NBA (NBA.com).

When all is said and done, the MVP award deserves to go home with the “The Beard”.