Even though he is currently the favorite, I’m right now struggling to overcome the paranoia that somehow in the end, James Harden will be robbed of this year’s MVP award. I’m still suffering from the traumatic experience of watching him have the 2015 award stolen away. This is the fear which survivors live with. Because James Harden absolutely was robbed of the 2015 MVP – I will argue that point until my very last breath, and even more fervently with every historic performance exhibited by Klay Thompson or Draymond Green.
The no-brainer choice as the frontrunner would be Russell Westbrook not just because you can see him obliterating every usage and shot attempt record in existence, but also because if the Thunder have any degree of success this year, the media will be all over the narrative. Durant and Curry would seem to cancel each other out and I see Lebron taking an even greater step back to save himself for the stretch run. Anthony Davis would be a natural choice if the Pelicans could manage to not be horrible, leaving you with just Chris Paul and Blake Griffin who will both be injured for extended periods.
As I wrote above, on August 24, Westbrook has taken this opportunity to not-so-efficiently take his game to greater heights, Curry and Durant have canceled each other out, and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both have missed extended time due to injury. But while Lebron hasn’t had the stratospheric numbers we’re accustomed to, with the Cavaliers crippled by injury, one can really see James taking his game to another level in the second half and reminding the rest of the league of his place at the top of the totem pole. Lebron also has narrative on his side – we forgot about him last year, and he slayed Goliath. Do we reward him now for his postseason heroics? I also previously had not accounted for dark horses like Kawhi Leonard or Isaiah Thomas, the former of whom I seriously fear might steal the award.
At the time of writing, just five losses separate the Rockets from the Thunder, with Houston occupying the third seed and the Thunder sitting at seventh. If Houston drops below fourth, that’s it for Harden. Similarly, if the Rockets stay in third, and the Thunder climb to fourth, (or maybe even fifth depending on the number of games that separate the teams), it will be Westbrook’s award.
Today, Houston still sits at third with Oklahoma City at seventh, and with 7.5 games separating the two teams. But I’m no longer as fearful of Westbrook as I am the field. I fear Harden has peaked too soon, but that could be the paranoia speaking. The Rockets cannot afford another month like their disastrous January.