As the NBA 2016-17 season approaches the midway point, the league MVP is the tightest race in years, with Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) and James Harden (Houston Rockets) viewed as the frontrunners. But neither deserves the gong.
Westbrook – now without Kevin Durant, who moved to the Golden State Warriors over the offseason – is Mr Triple-Double this season (30.9 ppg, 10.5 apg and 10 rpg) on a team that currently sits seventh in the Western Conference.
If he keeps those numbers up, Westbrook will become only the second player to ever finish a regular season averaging a triple-double. Oscar ‘The Big O’ Robertson, in just his second season in the league, put up 30.8 ppg, 11.4 apg and 12.5 rpg. What makes those numbers even better is the fact there wasn’t a three-point line in 1961-62.
Harden is just shy of averaging a triple-double with 28.4 ppg, 11.9 apg and 8.2 rpg. ‘The Beard’, who was a teammate of Westbrook’s for three seasons in Oklahoma City, was at his brilliant best recently against the New York Knicks, with 53 points, 17 assists and 16 rebounds – the first player in league history to have at least 50-15-15 against his name in a single game.
Although lower scoring numbers, what’s more impressive is against true finals contenders Golden State Warriors (top in the Western Conference) and San Antonio Spurs (second in the Western Conference), Harden recorded triple-doubles.
However, LeBron James is the MVP.
Every year, James gives his team the best chance to win in the regular season and positions them well for the playoffs. The four-time regular season MVP – who also holds three finals MVPs – has the Cleveland Cavaliers sitting on top of the Eastern Conference, with 26 wins and seven losses.
Through 33 games, James is averaging 25.6 ppg, 8.6 apg and 7.8 rpg. His ppg places him ninth on the leading scorers’ list, behind Westbrook (first) and Harden (fourth). James sits fifth in apg and 30th in the rpg leaders list. Both Westbrook and Harden rank higher.
If any of these three superstars were to miss a game, their respective teams would likely lose. However, Cleveland is a true championship contender, yet if James doesn’t suit up, the Cavaliers have a very high percentage of recoding an ‘L’.
Last season with James not in the line-up, Cleveland won one regular season game and lost five – that’s an 83.33 percent chance of losing. So far this season, James has missed three games – against Detroit, Indiana and Memphis – and the Cavs lost all three (and only Memphis is above .500).
As expected, when James plays and is off the court (taking a rest), his impact is seen in the on/off stats when the opposing teams’ stats increase.
Without teammate Kevin Love in the line-up, Cleveland are three wins and one loss. When Kyrie Irving doesn’t play, Cleveland have won three games and one loss. It must be pointed out the loss for both Love and Irving came against the Memphis Grizzlies, when James too didn’t play.
The Cavaliers just look like a different team when James is in the line-up. Michael Jordan – who James is frequently compared against – once said, “There is no ‘I’ in team but there is in win.”
Against the best in both the East (Toronto Raptors, after Cleveland) and West (Golden State Warriors), James averages 31 ppg, 10 rpg and 8.66 apg. It’s also the game-changing offensive and defensive plays that place James above all. Just ask any player who has heard James thundering behind and had their shot blocked. Further, James is as versatile as any player in the league, having played at each position this year.
If LeBron is crowned as the regular season MVP, he will join Bill Russell and Michael Jordan, who both have five MVPs sitting on their mantlepiece. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has more, with six.