Did James Harden deserve the MVP Award?

Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images /

The 2017 MVP Award has stirred up a bit of controversy.

The 2017 race for the MVP Award between Russell Westbrook and James Harden was one for the ages.

The pick for MVP from NBA analysts and fans swung back and forth like a pendulum, depending on who had the most recent astonishing stat line.

On March 17, Harden cooked the Denver Nuggets with 41 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. The following night, he torched the New Orleans Pelicans with a 40-10-10 stat line. Most players never have a 40-point triple-double in their entire careers, let alone two on back-to-back nights.

But Russell Westbrook would not be outdone, as he went on a triple-double fury. On March 22, Westbrook led his Oklahoma City Thunder to a 25-point blowout win over the Philadelphia 76ers, finishing with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists. Westbrook logged a triple-double in every game until April 5, when he came up one rebound shy in a 45-point performance in Memphis.

Russell’s best performance came in an eight-point win over the Orlando Magic. The reigning MVP finished with 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, in what was arguable the best performance of the 2016-17 season. Westbrook became the fourth player in NBA history to record seven consecutive triple-doubles in a season, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson. Oh, and Westbrook recorded seven consecutive triple-doubles twice last season, his first streak came between November 25 and December 9.

Daryl Morey doesn’t agree with the 2017 MVP voting process.

The media panel that determines the MVP casted Russell Westbrook as the winner, but Rockets GM Daryl Morey has a different opinion. Morey said that maybe the NBA should do away with awards, unless they construct a more decisive process, via The Crossover.

I don’t know if this is a good process,” Morey told The Crossover. “The ones that are decided by players or executives or media, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. I honestly don’t think there’s a good process. You could argue for eliminating the awards altogether. I don’t really see a good way to do it that doesn’t have major issues. I like clean answers. If there’s not going to be a set criteria and there’s going to be issues with how it’s structured, for me it might be better to not have it.

This years’ criteria has changed from past years.

Of course Morey is taking up for his superstar, but the criteria for the MVP Award is somewhat cloudy. Typically, the award doesn’t go to the best player in the NBA, but the best player who also played on one of the top 5 or so teams.

It’s the same reason that Steve Nash, who’s Phoenix Suns won 54 games in 2005-06, won the MVP over Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Kobe averaged 35.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists and LeBron put up 31.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists that year. Sure, Nash had great numbers with 18.8 points and 10.5 assists, but he wasn’t the best player in the world at the time.

Nash won the MVP because the Suns had a more successful regular season than Kobe’s Lakers or LeBron’s Cavaliers. When Dirk Nowitzki won the MVP in 2007 and Derrick Rose won in 2011, neither star had the most impressive numbers or was the best player in the league at the time.

When following the same criteria as past years – James Harden, whose Rockets won 55 games –  should have won the award. That is why Morey has brought the voting process into question, via The Crossover.

We thought James was the MVP but there were a bunch of very good, deserving candidates,” Morey continued, before making an apparent reference to Westbrook’s triple-double achievement. “I didn’t like how a different MVP criteria was used this year, compared to the last 55 years, to fit more of a marketing slogan. People thought a different criteria for selecting the MVP this year was the way to go.

Should James Harden have won the MVP Award?

If the criteria for MVP voting remained consistent, than James Harden deserved the MVP Award. The Rockets finished with the third best record in the NBA, after loosing Dwight Howard to the Atlanta Hawks.

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Westbrook and the Thunder finished as the sixth seed in the Western Conference last season, a moderate position for an MVP winner. The race for that 42nd triple-double and the media frenzy around becoming the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-1962 to average a triple-double captivated the voting panel.

To accomplish a feat that Magic Johnson said would never happen again is very impressive, indeed. But the voting criteria must remain consistent every year, or some will begin to call into question the importance of the award.