Harden vs Westbrook: The battle for the MVP continues

Sporting News
Sporting News

With less than 13 games remaining until the end of the regular season, Houston Rockets’ James Harden and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook continue doing amazing things on the floor and fighting tooth and nail for winning the MVP award.

During the off-season, both players saw many changes take place to their respective teams and had to play at very high standards to help their squads retain their place among the top clubs in the Western Conference.

More specifically, the “Beard” had to deal with Dwight Howard’s departure, while Houston appointed Mike D’Antoni as the head coach.

Although most people were thinking Harden would struggle to be on the same page with D’Antoni, things were completely different.

Thanks to the American-Italian’s decision to use Harden as a point-guard, the 27-year-old guard has exploded this season.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

His impressive footwork lets him be equally productive both in 1-on-1 and pick’n’roll situations, while he has improved his post-up game as well.

Concurrently, Harden runs Houston’s most plays, which has enabled him to be the team’s top scorer as well as number one in the assists, as the Rockets are consisted of many players that can shoot the ball very well both from the three-point range and inside the paint (36.2% and 46.3%, respectively).

Consequently, Harden averages 29.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists per game, along with 19 triple-doubles so far, and has transformed Houston into the Golden State Warriors’ and San Antonio Spurs’ biggest threat in the Western Conference (49-22 record, second in the assists’ category), playing the best basketball of his career and being nowhere near his prime yet.

Most importantly, though, he has enhanced his defensive performance, and is considered the number one favourite to win the award, especially if the Rockets keep on being ultra competitive until the end of the regular season.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 8, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) smiles on the court in the game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Oklahoma City won 122- 106. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

On the other hand, there is Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma’s undisputed leader is simply unstoppable, having recorded 34 triple-doubles in 70 games this season.

Since Kevin Durant’s departure in the summer, the 28-year-old player has taken over, doing his best not only to lead his squad to the NBA Finals, but also prove his ability to be equally impressive without having Durant on his side.

Despite the Thunder’s failure to come closer to the top seeds in the West (currently sixth in the standings, 40-30 record), Westbrook has been tremendous offensively (averaging 31.4 points, 10.5 boards and 10.3 assists per game) and tries to break Oscar Robertson’s all-time record of 41 triple-doubles in a season.

Thanks to his ability to score both from mid-range and beyond the arc, Westbrook takes advantage of his strength and agility to score many points and grab rebounds as well as dish more than 10 assists in almost every game.

At the same time, it’s also worth mentioning that his triple-doubles are crucial for his squad’s effort to earn the victory, as the Thunder are 29-6 when Westbrook makes a triple double and 11-24 when he doesn’t.

Although most people say Harden should win the award, due to Houston’s winning record, I think Westbrook deserves it more than his opponent, as he has managed to retain Oklahoma within the play-off spots, despite Durant’s departure, doing amazing things on the floor.

Even though San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (best two-way player in the league) and defending champions Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James are considered MVP candidates as well, the two favourites certainly are Harden and Westbrook.

With both players being extraordinary so far, the last 12 games of the regular season will determine who will win the coveted award, as Harden seems to have a slight advantage over his opponent, mostly because the Houston Rockets are higher on the table.

No matter who will win in the end, the bottom line is that both athletes equally deserve to be named the MVP, as they have done incredible things this season and are simply dominant.