Blogtable: Agree or disagree with James Harden's talk about MVP chase?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
* * *
James Harden has put up some lofty numbers this season too, but he says “winning is what it’s all about. Period.” Do you agree or disagree?
* * *
Steve Aschburner: He had better hope not, because MVPs traditionally come from teams with better records than Harden’s Rockets will manage. Nice of Harden — who has had a tremendous individual season — to remind voters for the NBA awards that his team has been more successful in the standings this season than, ahem, some certain other candidates’, but there’s more to it than that. This is an entertainment business, too, as well as one that tracks and compares various achievements over time. I feel confident, too, that if Harden’s team won 60 games every year but thrived most when he played 22 minutes off the bench and averaged 12 points, he wouldn’t be making a similar pronouncement.
Fran Blinebury: I agree that Harden has just made the case for Kawhi Leonard.
Scott Howard-Cooper: In the context of playing in the NBA, yes. But if we’re talking about where it fits into the MVP debate, no. Records matter because it’s one of the layers that helps define greatness. The standings should not be the ultimate judge on the voting outcome, though, and Westbrook is a perfect example. The Thunder have been good. Not top-three good like the Rockets, but good enough to where Westbrook isn’t just a guy putting up numbers on a bad team.
Shaun Powell: To an extent, yes, Harden is right. But when you win a handful of games more than the guy you’re competing with for the MVP, I don’t see winning as being the difference-maker.
John Schuhmann: For me, the MVP is about team success and the individual that makes the biggest impact on it. So it’s a combination of how good your team is and the load that you carry. If two guys are carrying a similarly big load and one team is clearly better than the other, team success should certainly be a factor.
Sekou Smith: In the grand scheme of things, James Harden is 100 percent correct. Winning is what it’s all about … but that doesn’t mean that winning will push you over the top in anyone’s MVP race. Sometimes it takes more, a compelling narrative, the right relationships with voters, public sentiment being on your side and perhaps maybe more.
Ian Thomsen: Winning is what it’s all about. On opening night very little was expected of Harden (who didn’t even make All-NBA last year), his team (which underperformed all season before losing its No. 2 star Dwight Howard to free agency) and his coach (Mike D’Antoni was not in high demand after his stints with the Knicks and Lakers). All of that has blurred into the background of Westbrook, who also turned negatives into positives. Instead of being demoralized by Durant’s departure, OKC was emboldened by Westbrook’s drive.
Westbrook didn’t win as many games as Harden, but it’s fair to say that each star maxed-out his team’s potential – the Rockets and Thunder squeezed out as many wins as was possible. Winning matters greatly, but the numbers are relative.
Lang Whitaker: Sure, I agree that winning should probably be the most important thing for any NBA player, on a macro level. But this argument seems to be suggesting that Westbrook is going for individual numbers instead of trying to win? Because the numbers are pretty clear: When Westbrook doesn’t get a triple-double, the Thunder are 13-25. When he does get a triple-double? The Thunder are 33-9. So if winning is what it’s all about, Westbrook has given his team their best chance at winning all season, coincidentally doing so by piling up triple-doubles.