On the night Russell Westbrook set the single-season NBA triple double record, James Harden said winning should factor most into Most Valuable Player of the Year award voting.
“I thought winning was what this is about,” Harden said on Sunday, according to The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen. “I’m not going to get into depths, but I thought winning is the most important thing."
Harden has led his Rockets team (54-26) to the NBA’s third-best record, pouring on 29.2 points (second-best), 11.2 assists (league-best) and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Westbrook has shattered NBA records, recorded seven consecutive triple doubles twice this season, and scored the most points (57) with a triple double in NBA history. The Thunder (46-34) are the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference despite boasting Westbrook as far and away its most recognizable name.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey has publicly backed his points guard’s campaign for MVP on Twitter. He even promoted Harden’s MVP case as a webpage on NBA .com.
More context: '62 MVP #1 Bill Russell (60 Wins-20 Losses),#2 Wilt Chamberlain (49 W-31 L), #3 Oscar Robertson (43 W-37 L, avg triple double) https://t.co/2wRKI4JfFT— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) April 9, 2017
If there’s an MVP race deemed too close to call, it’s this one. Sure, Harden has more wins, but his supporting cast is exponentially better than the team Westbrook has dragged into the post-season.
The Rockets added Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson during the summer, then went ahead and dealt for Lou Williams at the trade deadline. Oklahoma City’s next best players after Westbrook are Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. The Thunder also added Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott during the All-Star break.
MVP voters have to turn their ballots in at the end of the week, so post-season play won’t have an influence over the decision. But Westbrook and Harden are slated to go head-to-head in the first round of the playoffs.
The Rockets beat the Thunder, 3-1, in the season series this year. But if there’s anything Westbrook has proven this season, it’s that you can’t count ever him out.
And even if Houston has the edge in the wins category, voters can’t discount Westbrook’s historic level of play when making their choice for the MVP award.