But the player this year who everyone is sleeping on for MVP? James Harden of the Rockets. He’s actually having a better statistical year than Westbrook, and doing more with less.
Yes, a lot of the credit goes to Mike D’Antoni, who turned Steve Nash into a two-time MVP in Phoenix, and turned Jeremy Lin into a folk hero in New York. D’Antoni’s transformation of Harden from heat-check ballhog to unstoppable point guard might be his finest work.
Everyone knew Harden was talented, but after Dwight Howard left in free agency, the Rockets were an afterthought in the West. Maybe they’d snag the eighth seed. But after an incredible 37-point performance (on 14 shots!) against the Celtics Monday, Harden’s Rockets are 4th in the West (14-7), 1/2 game ahead of Westbrook’s Thunder (14-8).
Harden season averages vs Westbrook season averages
28.7 ppg (4th) ………. 31.0 ppg (2nd)
11.6 apg (1st) ………. 11.3 apg (2nd)
7.6 rpg ………. 10.9 rpg
44 FG/35 3FG/84 FT ………. 42 FG/33 3FG/81 FT
Nobody has led the NBA in scoring and assists since Tiny Archibald in 1972-1973, but Harden’s within striking distance. The pair are 1-2 in turnovers per game, basically swapping spots each week.
Westbrook is putting up his points 24 shots per game; Harden only attempts 19. Harden’s also ahead of Westbrook in shooting from the field, on 3-pointers, and from the foul line.
I don’t know if I’ve seen a better single performance in a game this season than Harden’s 29-point, 15-rebound, 13-assist showing in Oakland last week to beat the Warriors in double overtime.
And that’s ultimately why I give the edge to Harden over Westbrook: James Harden’s wingmen aren’t the caliber of Steven Adams or Victor Oladipo or even Enes Kanter (all lottery picks under the age of 25).
Harden’s working with 31-year old Trevor Ariza, oft-injured Eric Gordon (never played more than 64 games in a season), scrappy Patrick Beverley, and young, bouncy role players like Clint Capella and Sam Dekker.
You could argue Westbrook over Harden because of the rebounds and triple doubles; the counter is Harden’s doing more with less, and is doing it all more efficiently.