Blogtable: Will Sunday’s Oklahoma City Thunder-Houston Rockets game sway MVP race?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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How much sway will Sunday’s Thunder-Rockets game have on the MVP race?
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David Aldridge: Some, with some. To me it’s one more piece of information, but even though Harden and Westbrook are both point guards and handle the ball for their teams, I’d anticipate some cross matching by both teams (Pat Beverley will take Westbrook for Houston; Andre Roberson will take Harden for OKC) that will keep them from guarding each other most of the time. Both are having too special a season for one matchup to be determinate, though. Every day, I change my mind (and, yes, that includes Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James as well).
Steve Aschburner: Not a lot. No one game should get undue weight when it comes to a season-long award. If I truly were undecided between James Harden and Russell Westbrook and it was the final game of the regular season, mmm, maybe. But an MVP, especially, is way more nuanced than one head-to-head showdown can capture. I’ve got four guys who will fill, in some order, the top four spots on my ballot (Harden, Westbrook, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard). The OKC-Houston game will toss more evidence on the pile but it hardly will be determinant.
Fran Blinebury: Unless James Harden or Russell Westbrook — or both? — goes off for 80, I don’t think one more game is going to make a difference in most minds. It’s coming down to whether Westbrook finishes up averaging a triple-double and where the Thunder end up in the West playoff pecking order. And there’s also that Kawhi Leonard fella. Doesn’t defense still count?
Scott Howard-Cooper: Maybe more than it should. If Harden has a big game or Westbrook has a big game, or both, someone may draw a season-long conclusion, especially if the two spend much time guarding each other. That would be a bad conclusion, of course. To have a decision like that come down to one game would be too near-sighted even among the world that lives 140 characters at a time. I can’t believe anyone will reach a bottom line with several weeks to go in the season when the MVP race is this tight.
Shaun Powell: My answer is “very little.” Even if Russell Westbrook or James Harden has a monster game, these performances have a seven-hour shelf life on talk radio and social media. Then the attention span shifts. If the other player goes nuts the following game, then that’s another seven-hour life. It’s a back-and-forth volley that won’t end until the season’s over and the voting begins. The race is that close in the minds of some (not mine; a triple-double or close enough should seal it for Russ no matter what Harden does).
John Schuhmann: One game should never have much influence on the MVP race, and I think a distinction between Harden and Westbrook is fairly easy to make. Harden is carrying a huge load for the league’s second-ranked offense, while Westbrook is carrying a huge load for league’s 17th-ranked offense. The last guy to average a triple-double? Oscar Robertson. The last guy to average 29 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists (Harden’s numbers)? Oscar Robertson. Now, I just need these last three weeks to figure out if the MVP should be Harden or LeBron James.
Sekou Smith: A triple-double from either one of or even both of these guys won’t really move the needle. Something truly outlandish would have to happen to shake things up, since they’re both at the top of most (reasonable) people’s list of the league’s most valuable players this season. That said, I love that we get this last debate (it was an election year) between what most of us believe to be the top two candidates. And for the record, averaging a triple-double for the season means more to me than Westbrook potentially catching Oscar Robertson for the NBA record for triple-doubles in a season (41). And I still don’t know if that trumps what Harden has done for the Rockets all season behind his equally outlandish scoring and assists numbers that we haven’t seen sine the days of Oscar. This race goes down to the wire!
Ian Thomsen: Little influence on me. The Rockets have come out of nowhere to earn the league’s third-best record and it all revolves around Harden. Westbrook has been terrific, but Harden’s team is achieving at a higher level.
Lang Whitaker: Very little, at least in regard to my MVP vote. If one game were the deciding factor, it doesn’t pay much tribute to the other 81, and for some of these guys, perhaps especially Russell Westbrook, it’s the sustained and repeated effort over the entire schedule that is the most remarkable part of their candidacy. It’ll be fun to watch them square off, but I’m not going to let one game make up my mind.
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