By: Greg Hausler, Staff Writer
With another NBA season coming to a close, of course, it is time for everyone to debate who should win MVP. The 2016-2017 season has been a statistic nerd’s dream season. Russell Westbrook not only averaged a triple-double (31.6/10.7/10.4), but shattered the NBA’s usage record. James Harden led the league in assists while still averaging 29.1 points per game, coming close to being the first player since Nate “Tiny” Archibald to lead the league in both points and assists. To put a cap on it all, Karl-Anthony Towns, who just became legal to drink, put up 25.1 ppg/12.3rpg and hit more threes in a season than Larry Bird ever did. To put it mildly, this season has provided the craziest stat-lines in NBA history. Maybe this is due to the advanced metrics era and teams learning how to maximize efficiency, or maybe it is due to great players simply being great, but one thing is obvious, picking awards is more difficult than ever. Here are the picks:
Most Improved: Giannis (Greek Freak) Antetokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks.
Leading your team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals warrants attention, and puts you on a list that only LeBron, KG, Dave Cowens, and Scottie Pippen occupy. Doing so at 22, while being a 7-footer, essentially playing point guard and single-handedly carrying an injury depleted team to the playoffs, is something remarkable.
6th Man of the Year: Eric Gordon- Houston Rockets
James Harden gets most of the credit for Houston’s turnaround from fringe playoff team to title contender, but much of this is due to GM Daryl Morey’s offseason moves. Houston most notably cut ties with Dwight Howard as any team who wants team chemistry would do, but he also brought in shooters Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon to spread the floor so Harden and pick roll maestro coach Mike D’Antoni can work their magic. Gordon put up 17 ppg off the bench and the space he provides Harden alone warrants him recognition.
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green- Golden State Warriors
You hate him, I hate him, and anyone that isn’t from the Bay Area or attends Michigan State hates him. But the guy is the league’s best all-around defender. Green anchors the Golden State defense which finished 2nd in the league in defensive efficiency while leading the league in steals. Additionally, he registers as a 5 rim protector in the league while standing at a relatively small 6’7 for a big man.
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni- Houston Rockets
Gregg Popovich has reached Belichick status where he should win every year, but voters are bored of him, so somebody else has to win. Luckily D’Antoni is more than deserving, he took Houston from a 41-41 8 seed last year to a 55-37 3 seed this year. Additionally, by moving Harden to point guard full-time and letting his shooters shoot, he led the team to a record-setting 1181 threes made.
MVP: James Harden
Like Tom Brady, LeBron James is the most valuable player every year. But the fact is he won’t win, all of us have grown bored of his dominance and other players have had historic seasons. Yes, Russell Westbrook did average a triple double and lead the league in scoring. And yes he did so after the league’s second best player(Kevin Durant) left OKC. He is a deserving candidate, but James Harden is the more deserving one. Being the leader of a record setting offense while averaging 29/11/8 makes his case strong. Leading the league in win shares and total points responsible for, makes it stronger than Westbrook’s. Additionally the eye test, as vague as it is, means a lot. Harden makes the guys around him better, something that cannot be said for the historically ball-dominant Westbrook. Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and Pat Beverley all had career years due to Harden’s unique combination of passing and scoring. A common narrative in Westbrook’s favor is that he has no talent around him; that however is false. Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, and Enes Kanter all were drafted high in the lottery and would start on any non-Golden State team in the league. Has Houston done a better job of surrounding Harden with shooters and space? Yes, there is no debating that, but that is no reason to knock Harden’s value and candidacy.
James Harden should be the 2016-2017 NBA MVP, but honestly it doesn’t matter because LeBron is still the league’s top dog.