The first half of the 2016-17 NBA season is nearly in the books. At this point, the MVP discussion starts moving past the sheer speculation stage, because now, we have the numbers to work with. And the first half of the season reveals a couple of players ahead of the pack. If your guesses involve James Harden from the Houston Rockets and Russell Westbrook from the Okahoma City Thunder, then you’re on the money.
MVP voting isn’t exactly an objective science. There are so many arbitrary points to handing out the MVP plum that only one time in the league’s history has voting been unanimous (Stephen Curry last year). Do you hand it only to the one with the most impressive statline? How badly do wins factor in? It’s a discussion, every single year. However, both Russ and The Beard have made the case for themselves, both involving the numbers and the intangibles.
Thunder Still Rolling
Many doubted how well the Thunder might thrive in the absence of Kevin Durant. However, Russell Westbrook has clearly become their singular franchise player, and kept OKC squarely in the Playoff picture. They’re stuck in a logjam with the Grizzlies and Jazz from 5th to 7th seed.
But Westbrook’s individual performance make up the story here: He’s averaging 31.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per game. That’s right – he’s averaging a triple-double, something that has been unheard of his Oscar Robertson. Players who have not been to achieve those kinds of numbers: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan. He had seven straight triple-doubles at one point. It’s simply the mark of a man working with almost machinelike precision, night in and night out.
Fear the Beard
For others, no individual statline matters more than a team’s wins, however. And Harden has been able to give the Houston Rockets just that. While OKC is carving its space out in the Western Playoff Picture’s lower half, Houston has gatecrashed Golden State and San Antonio’s party. The Rockets have inexplicably become the 3rd seed in the West (29-9), thanks in great part to James Harden’s playing (27.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 11.9 assists).
He has nine triple-doubles of his own this season, including that masterpiece of a game where he hit 50 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists against the Knicks. That statline, until that night, had been unheard of.
One More Half
As of now, many analysts would give the laurels to Westbrook. His individual performance so far has superseded Harden’s. This is despite the Thunder lower on the W-L column than the Rockets, but the MVP Award does, of course, make allowance for that. It is in favor of recognizing spectacular one-man shows. And, it is a regular season award, after all
There’s still half a season to go, of course. Harden may make a stronger case for himself, yet. Kawhi Leonard, Isaiah Thomas, and a few others may also still have a thing to say about that MVP Award.
Any guesses of your own for which player deserves the plum? Let us hear it in the comments below!