Kawhi Leonard. LeBron James. Isaiah Thomas. Russell Westbrook. They are all legitimate NBA superstars with immense talent for the game of basketball, with Westbrook averaging a triple double this season, a feat that had only been done once before by Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 season.
But James Harden is the 2016-2017 MVP.
With the departure of Dwight Howard for Atlanta, James Harden became the lone star in Houstan. On paper, the starting lineup of James Harden, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Clint Capella will hardly instill fear in opposing teams.
But they did.
While they started out the season with a pedestrian record of 6-4, they quickly gained momentum and by All Star break, they boast an impressive 40-18 record in the tough Western Conference loaded with star talent and stacked teams. Throughout this season, James Harden had been the maestro of the Houston offense that heavily emphasized on player spacing and three-point shooting. With a conversion rate of 35% on their three-point field goals and attempting up to 40 three-point field goal attempts per game, this high-paced high scoring offense in Houston had captured the imagination of many (myself included).
But Russell Westbrook?
When we look back at the past seasons in the NBA, MVPs had traditionally been handed to the top 2 seeds from both conferences. While Harden’s Rockets clinched a 3rd seed in the Western Conference, it is undeniable that he had single-handedly carried the team into the playoffs picture, to a seeding as high as the 3rd. Russell Westbrook is a one-man wrecking crew but had not have as much success in the team perspective, but his individual achievements is nothing but incredible and it is unlikely to be replicated for at least decades to come.
Leading his team in points, rebounds and assists throughout the regular season, James Harden (the now point guard), was only 2 rebounds shy of a triple double himself for the regular season, which will certainly solidify his right to the Maurice Podoloff trophy. Of course taking into account the fact that Clint Capella is a rebounding stud in his own right, in the playoffs Harden ceded the rebounding leader spot on the team, but had also ramp up his activity in the passing lanes, averaging 2 steal per game.
James Harden is the MVP for the 2016-2017 regular season, and he had stepped up his game further this post-season. Maybe we will see him with three trophies when the season comes to an end.