Written by Rocco Contristano III

This year’s NBA MVP races has been one of the most exciting we have ever seen.  All year it’s been a battle between four players: LeBron, Kawhi, Westbrook, and Harden. But really, all year it was a battle between just two players: Westbrook and Harden. It’s important to note that the NBA MVP is a regular season award. That’s an easy thing to forget when the playoffs come around and LeBron asserts his dominance, reminding the world that no other player can even come close to touching him. But LeBron doesn’t care about the regular season. So we’re back to Westbrook vs Harden. Now the MVP winner won’t officially be announced until June, but we all know Westbrook is winning the award. But he shouldn’t. Westbrook has had a historical year and https://sport.netbet.co.uk have him as favourite, but Harden is the rightful MVP.

Let’s do a thing where we talk in hypothetical terms, for a moment. Ok, so say, hypothetically, that Westbrook’s teammates didn’t clear the way for Westbrook’s freebee rebounds, and because of it, Westbrook’s rebounding numbers dwindled just a bit. And so instead of averaging 31.4/10.4/10.7, Westbrook averaged 31.4/10.4/9.2. Or let’s flip the switch. Let’s pretend Harden went all out for rebounds and averaged two more rebounds a game; taking his 29.1/11.2/8.1 to a 29.1/11.2/10.1. Or even just imagine that the term “triple double” didn’t exist, and the only difference between a 10/10/10 split and a 10/10/8 split was two rebounds. If any of these scenarios were true, who would be your MVP? James Harden, cut and dry.
Looking at scoring, who wouldn’t take Harden’s 29.1 points on 18.9 shots over Westbrook’s 31.4 points on 24 shots? Harden ranks fifth in the league in point’s per shot, at 1.54, trailing only four centers, all of which are averaging under 15 points per game. Westbrook’s 1.32 points per shot ranks 60th, right behind J.J. Redick. Even Harden’s shooting percentages are better across the board with a 44/34.7/84.7 split, compared to RWB’s 42.5/34.3/84.5. Advantage Harden for scoring.
When it comes to passing, you’re definitely taking Harden’s 11.2 assist over Westbrook’s 10.4. Both players take care of the ball about as good as Alan takes care of a baby, with Harden averaging 5.7 TO’s per game and Westbrook averaging 5.4 TO’s per game. This ranks them first and second all-time, in NBA history, for most turnovers in a season. With that being said though, Harden’s 1.95 AST/TO ratio > Westbrook’s 1.92 AST/TO Ratio. Advantage Harden for distributing.
Finally, let’s talk about exceeding expectations. I know that people like to say Westbrook achieved more and was more valuable because he had less to work with than Harden. But who actually exceeded expectations, on a higher level, this season? Before the season started did you think the Rockets or the Thunder would finish with the higher seed? Majority of people will say the Thunder. Vegas said the Thunder. Remember, before the season, Vegas set the over/under for this year’s team wins at 45.5 for the Thunder, compared to just 41.5 for the Rockets. The Rocket’s obliterated there over/under by finishing with 55 wins this season. OKC had 47. That’s a 13.5 win increase for Harden compared to a 1.5 win increase for Russ. Westbrook may have stuffed the stat sheet, but Harden is the more valuable player. Advantage Harden for exceeding expectations.
Across the board Harden was better. “Yeah, but Westbrook averaged a triple double” is the same as saying “Yeah, but Westbrook averaged two more rebounds.” We give too much power to the term “Triple-Double.” Harden was all around better than Westbrook at basically all aspects of the game. But because Harden was two rebounds a game short of averaging a triple-double, the award goes to Westbrook? That’s not right.

Ok, so let’s stop speaking hypothetically now, and speak in literal terms. If you look only at the per game splits, then yes, Westbrook’s 31.4/10.4/10.7 looks superior to Harden’s 29.1/11.2/8.1. I mean, not only did Westbrook lead the league in points; he averaged a triple double for God’s sake. And this is Westbrook supporters’ number one argument; the triple double. A player averaging a triple double is something that hasn’t happened since Oscar Robertson did it in the 1961-62 season, and it was something we thought we’d never see again. As far as unbreakable records go, this one ranked up among Wilt’s 100 point game, and Bill Russel’s eleven championships. But then KD informed Westbrook that he was going to GS via text message, thus creating the monster that is Petty Westbrook. And how could Petty Westbrook possibly get back at Durant? Well, he knew he couldn’t beat him. But maybe, just maybe, he could get back at him by having one of the most historical statistical seasons that we’ve witnessed in the last 50 years. And that’s just what the fuck he did. Kudos to Russ, man, but here’s the thing: When is the last time we ever celebrated someone for being the SECOND person to ever do something. Has there ever been a movie sequel that was better than the original? Who was the second person to step foot on the moon? Not sure, but Neil Armstrong was first. The Wright brothers made the first airplane. I can’t name another single person that even drew a picture of an airplane, but I know the Wright Brother’s built the first. I mean shit, I can’t even tell you who the second president of the United States was, but I’m damn sure that George Washington was the first. When Oscar averaged a triple double in that 61-62 season, he finished third in the MVP race. So why does the second player who averaged a triple double deserve more praise than the first player to ever do it? Without Oscar, the triple double doesn’t even exist. Oscar’s the founder; Westbrook is just the trust fund baby.

Let me tell you a quick story. My freshman year of college there was this girl who lived across the hall from my roommates and me. We called her Food Girl because she always made our broke asses food. I never did learn her real name – or at least I don’t remember it – but that’s beside the point. Anyways, when I first met Food Girl, she was this sweet, conservative, super innocent girl. You could tell she was very sheltered by her parents before she got to college. Nonetheless, she started hanging out with a group that liked to drink and party, which there is nothing wrong with. But Food Girl never went out and partied like that before, and in short time she fell in love. My roommates and I started seeing less and less of Food Girl. She started going out and partying every weekend. Then eventually lead to weekdays too. She didn’t even make it back to her dorm most nights. She started showing more skin. And eventually she got her first tattoo. Then her second. Then third. Then so on and so on, until one day she came back to our dorm looking like Chris ‘Birdman’ Anderson. She told us that her parents ended up disowning her, which isn’t entirely fair since her parents are partially at fault here. See Food Girl’s parents wanted to protect their daughter so much that they completely sheltered her off from the world. So when she finally did get the smallest taste of freedom, she didn’t know how to handle it. She didn’t know how to act. So in turn, she behaved poorly. Her parents thought they were helping her, but actually were hurting her.
The point of the story is this: Westbrook’s teammates are Food Girl. Westbrook is the overly protective parent. Westbrook is so controlling when he is on the court that he barely lets the rest of his teammates play basketball. Westbrook may think he’s helping the team, but, really, all he is doing is hurting them. Westbrook actually shelters his teammates from playing basketball. So when Westbrook is off the court, and his teammates get a little bit of freedom to actually play, just like Food Girl, they have no idea how to. So in turn, they play poorly. They just went a whole season being cuddled and coddled by Westbrook. When you are wired to have one player initiate every offensive sequence, what do you expect to happen when that one player comes out of the game?  It’s not Westbrook’s teammates’ fault that they can’t run the offense without Westbrook because Westbrook is the offense.
Don’t get it twisted though; in no way am I saying that the Thunder are better without Westbrook. I’m not even saying Westbrook’s supporting cast isn’t bad. What I’m saying is that Westbrook’s level of ball hoggery is on a spectrum that we have never even come close to seeing before. Because of this, it’s a foreign concept when Westbrook’s teammates get the ball in a situation that isn’t just catch and shoot. They have no flow to their offense. Westbrook takes that away. And without any flow, it can be gravely difficult to score and create your own shot.

I want to be perfectly clear when I say that this in no way is meant to throw shade at Westbrook. I respect Russ so much for embodying the human form of every fan’s petty hate towards KD for signing with GSW. I will always love Westbrook for that. I just don’t think he deserves the MVP. But maybe he does. Maybe it’s the awards fault. Maybe it just shouldn’t be called the MVP award. It should be changed to the MFP (Most Fun Player) or MEP (Most Exciting Player), but definitely not MVP (Most Valuable Player). Because that’s how the winner is really determined these days. It’s not by a player’s value but rather by how exciting or fun the player is that year. How do you think D Rose snuck in that MVP in between LeBron’s two back to back wins? And if that’s how we want to vote for the award, then that’s fine, but we should acknowledge it. Harden deserves the MVP award this year. At the end of the day though, the less deserving player (RWB) is winning the award because of TWO REBOUNDS. But regardless of how much I disagree with the decision, I ain’t mad at it.