See what I did there with that title? The above-referenced matter is one the discussion of which I’ve found odd. Again, as has been the case in each of the last few years, off-season predictions regarding the following year’s MVP race have omitted James Harden as a serious contender despite him either winning the award or finishing as a runner-up the previous year. And every time, he comes back better and is right in the conversation.
This time, predictably, I’m seeing the source of the expected decline has been the addition of Russell Westbrook. It makes sense, in theory, given both players have turned in some of the highest individual usage seasons in history. But Chris Paul was a high usage player as well with the Clippers. And Harden isn’t going to just suddenly stop being the most efficient player in basketball.
Keeping the math simple—since that’s the prism through which most of the voters see it—I really have a hard time seeing Harden’s raw points per game average dropping below 30ppg. But people are talking about him like he’s suddenly going to drop down to 24ppg.
I think you see Harden turn in something like 31 and 7 this year and Westbrook 20-9-9. I see no reason why both players can’t get their numbers within the flow of the offense given how much faster Houston should play due to Westbrook’s presence.