We’re finally through the grind of the NBA season and barely needed any days off for rest. This season has been many things but one of them is not predictable. There is not a clear dominate 2 teams like we had last year and these next 10 weeks should be an exciting time to be a basketball fan. The awards are just as wide open as the playoffs so how about we jump right into it.
Most Valuable Player: James Harden
Wow, what a way to start, huh? This is one of the closest races in recent history and you could make a legitimate case for 4 guys to win the award, safe to say we will not be having an unanimous MVP this year. Also, no Kobe we can’t have co-MVPs either, can’t believe retirement has made you this soft. There can only be one and that one has to be James Harden. Yeah before you say it I’ll say it for you, “But he’s not averaging a triple double!!??,” believe me I know but the last time I checked this isn’t about having the best stats. Also, The Big O was the last man to accomplish this feat, and guess what, he didn’t win MVP either.
It seems like all anyone wants to talk about is just how outrageous Westbrook’s stats are and that he just has to win it. But, if we wanna talk about stats I’ll give you a few of Harden’s:
- Leads the league in points points produced (points and points from assists combined)
- Leads the league in assists
- First player with 2,000 points and 2,000 assists in a season
- Ranks 15th in true shooting percentage (of the 4 candidates only LeBron is higher)
- Most games since 84-85 with 30-points 15-assists triple doubles
- Led the 9th best offense in points and assists
- Leads the league in win shares
- Higher offensive and defensive rating than Westbrook
- Higher FT, FG, and 3PT percentage than Westbrook
Oh and by the way, he did all of this in his first year at point guard.
“But Harden doesn’t even play defense, so how he can win MVP for only one part of the game?” Listen I get it, Harden has been pretty bad at times on defense:
But this season he has really improved on that side of the ball. He is averaging 8.2 contested shots per game, third most among Guards. Compared to Westbrook’s atrocious 3.6 shots, which is by far the worst rate among players who average 30+ minutes. He is also only averaging .1 less steals per game than Westbrook, and we all know how Westbrook loves to play the passing lanes to get steals. Harden is obviously not an all-defense type player but he is a big guard that can body smaller guys and his anticipation to get steals is better than expected. He’s also cut way down on his off-ball defensive mishaps and is a much better defender all around this year than people give him credit for.
“Harden has a better team around him so obviously they’re going to have more wins!!!” This is another weak argument and when you take a closer look doesn’t hold much ground. Vegas had the Rockets over/under this season at 41.5, while the Thunder were at 45.5. ESPN has Andre Roberson ranked higher (#158) than Lou Williams (#198) and Patrick Beverley (#160). Enes Kanter ranked higher (#80) than Eric Gordon (#86) and Ryan Anderson (#89). They have about an equal supporting but Harden’s is better, because he makes them better.
“Harden leads the league in turnovers again, he’s terrible!!!!” Guess who else used to lead the league in turnovers, John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and the list goes on. Having the ball in your hand and playing at the pace the Rockets do, it’s not really surprising he gets so many. It’s not like these turnovers are him dribbling the ball off his foot or anything, most of them are miscommunication problems or Harden trying to force a play on a break. These numbers aren’t a number of basketball skill but rather shows what the uptempo pace of the Rockets really does. The D’Antoni system prioritizes quick shots which leads to more possessions per game. Oh and by the way, Westbrook only has 28 less turnovers.
The last and most important point that gives Harden the edge is this, the Rockets will finish with the 3rd seed and 8 more wins. The NBA has only given away 4 MVP awards to players with less than a 60% winning percentage. Bob Pettit in 1955-56, Kareem in 75-76, Malone in 78-79 and 81-82, and Bob McAdoo in 74-75. Only three of those were below a 4th seed. That leaves me with this, is it more valuable to turn a struggling team into a barely above-average one, or a fringe playoff team into a legitimate playoff contender?
Rookie of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon (via sportingnews.com)
This would obviously be Embiid’s award if he would’ve played more than 31 games and it seems like just about everyone else is saying Dario Saric and he’ll most likely win, but Malcolm Brogdon deserves this award, especially for this:
Other than that thing of beauty, the stats don’t lie, this is Brogdon’s award. He averages better stats than Saric across the board other than points and rebounds. As a big man I hope he’d have more boards but he only averages about 3 more points, and he plays for the goddamn 76ers. Of course he’s going to average more points, he gets to shoot whenever he wants and it won’t really have any consequences. But, Brogdon is a legitimate contributor on a legitimate Bucks team that could do some damage in the playoffs. Why give the award for a player with empty stats on a bad team?
Brogdon is ahead of Kyrie and Curry in 3PT% and assist/turnover ratio. He’s behind only LeBron James in 4th quarter FG%, and oh by the way, the only rookie with a triple-double this year. He also is the 2nd best perimeter defender on the Bucks behind Giannis and is usually matching up on the opposing teams best guard.
Like I stated earlier Saric will most likely win this award based on past results, but Brogdon really deserves this. Sure, Saric is a more exciting player and scores more points but does that really make him “better.” He’s a big guy that can shoot, dribble, pass, and finish inside with a dizzying array of shots. But, Brogdon does all the little things to help a team win and his game goes much more unheeded. Again, he is a pivotal piece of a legit playoff team not just some role player on a terrible team. Also, he had Lebron James Jr calling him daddy and that deserves 1000 first place votes.
Tomorrow we will jump into the rest of the NBA awards so stay stuned.