If there's one tell-all accolade that should jump out at you in this MVP race, it has gotta be the fact that Russell Westbrook is really averaging a triple-double out here. That's right, a ridiculous 31.1 points, 10.1 assists and 10.5 rebounds per game through 57 games at the NBA All-Star Weekend break.
James Harden's 29.2 points, 11.3 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game are mind-numbing ... especially when you consider they're career-highs in each stat and that he's leading the league in assists.
Harden is a flat-out play maker who was always capable of dropping dimes ... if he wanted to. With The Beard showing a willingness to pass more this season, his assists have jumped up to just over 11 per contest. But ask us, and Westbrook's rebounds are more impressive. The fact that he has the hunger to snatch boards and then snares 10 per game is nothing to scoff at. Especially considering this kind of output on the glass is coming from a 6-foot-3 point guard. So, we'd have to give the edge to Russ here.
How much does a team's win-loss record have an affect on the MVP winner? Well, the team's record has been a push when MVP candidates have been in a race this tight in the past. The Rockets this close to the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors is certainly saying something. But we go back to Westbrook averaging a triple-double ... just to keep his team in the playoff picture. Without him, OKC could seriously be near the basement of the Western Conference.
We're seeing James Harden give slightly more effort on the defensive end this season. But it's not glaring to say the least. But is his lack of defensive intensity and urgency a bigger detriment to the Rockets than Russ playing one speed?
Ask us and we think it is. While some may criticize Westbrook for playing at one speed — turbo — it's that same urgency that enables him to knot triple-doubles. In other words, Russ's one speed carries way more positives than negatives. Can't say that for Harden's lack of defensive desire.
Sorry, James. We can't look past Russell's triple-doubles. Only Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double over a season. The fact that Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, while playing two less minutes per game than The Beard, and keeping his team in the playoff picture speaks volumes. We give him a slight edge to win the MVP after the All-Star break.
Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments.
(Photos from left: Harry How/Getty Images, Scott Halleran/Getty Images)