Russell Westbrook and James Harden have been two of the most explosive, electric, clutch NBA players throughout the year, constantly putting up big numbers straight across the board. It is rare throughout NBA history that you see this many triple-doubles in a single season. Westbrook is chasing down Oscar Robinson for the most all-time in a single season. He currently has 40. In 1961-62, Robinson racked up 41, a record that hasn’t come close to being touched since then. In fact, last year, when Kevin Durant and Westbrook were on the same team, Westbrook only ended up with 18 triple-doubles. Harden leads the way for the Houston Rockets, a playoff team that has relied heavily on Harden’s 20 triple-doubles this season.
As many tend to forget, these two used to lace ‘em up together for the Oklahoma City Thunder, until 2012, when Harden was traded to the Rockets. Harden did not receive as much backlash compared to Kevin Durant for leaving the team, and Harden and Westbrook’s relationship has stayed strong throughout both players’ careers. This makes for an interesting scenario when it comes to the MVP race this regular season. Imagine what the Thunder could have had if Durant and Harden both stayed put in OKC. All three young superstars could have formed some sort of super team, possibly winning multiple titles. Instead, all three have yet to win a title, with Durant jumping ship to have the best chance this summer.
Back to Westbrook, Harden and the MVP race; it is coming down to the wire. Both players are the backbone of their team and are leading their respective teams in points, rebounds and assists per game. In fact, Westbrook is averaging a triple-double. There are arguments as to why both candidates should win MVP, so let me lay them out here:
Russell Westbrook: Westbrook is putting an exclamation point on everything he has done this year. Emphatic. That is what you think when watching him play. With all this comes the Thunder. Westbrook is the big stats guy on an average team. The Thunder is predicted to finish sixth in the West, and although the Western Conference is loaded with teams like the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets and Jazz, the Thunder has taken a significant dip in their record from last year. This does not undermine the value Westbrook is to this team. He basically is the team. He is the go-to guy and in my opinion deserves the MVP for that reason.
James Harden: Harden is described as the player with the best stats on a good team. The Rockets have won over 50 games this season, and sit now at the third seed in the Western Conference. Harden is a good mix between Kawhi Leonard and Westbrook, as he produces huge stat lines, and is a consistent producer on a top-tier team. Harden may be overshadowed by the numbers Westbrook is producing, but nonetheless still needs to be considered because of his stellar year.
Although it would be nice to see which team makes a deeper run in the loaded Western Conference during the playoffs, the MVP is announced after the regular season, and since it isn’t my decision, I’m interested to see which player will take the crown for the 2016-2017 season.