Who is the Real MVP?
*Photo via AP
You can’t win them all. Just ask Stephen Curry. At the first ever National Basketball Players Association “Player’s Awards” hosted by BET Networks, James Harden was awarded the NBA’s MVP award from the people that probably matter the most: the players.
The media voted for Curry this past year as their NBA MVP and who could blame them? The “Splash Brother” could do no wrong in his sixth NBA season. Curry averaged 23.8 points per game along with 7.7 assists.
He led all vote-getters in the All-Star ballot and even won an NBA Championship with a cast that resembled the professional version of the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats platoon. The other “Splash Brother” and first time All-Star, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, and Draymond Green represented the rest of the starting lineup only to be relieved by Leandro Barbosa, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David Lee and Festus Ezeli.
As much as Curry was the end-all be-all on the offensive side of the ball, especially on all field goals being launched behind the arc, the former Davidson Wildcat had more than enough help to unseat every team in the Western Conference en route to leading the Warriors to their fourth NBA title in franchise history. Curry is to be commended for his exploits on the hardwood and is now being recognized as one of the faces of the NBA but so is Harden. If you can’t recognize Harden, his beard should help in that regard.
That particular beard and Harden has cooked on every NBA floor including the arena near you, becoming one of the league's deadliest perimeter threats next to the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, his ex-teammates. Harden can do it all. The six-foot-five guard complemented by a powerful 225 pound frame, has the ability to break down any and every defender at will, and can score from anywhere on the court.
He can score like Curry, not quite the shooting touch, but has everything else and then some. What’s allowed Curry to be where he is today is his supporting cast, which is one of the reasons why the players have spoken and decided to grant Harden MVP honors at the inaugural “Players Awards”. Harden, like Curry was the Rockets end-all be-all but the weight on Harden’s shoulders proved to be just a little more taxing.
With his number two in Dwight Howard missing a large chunk of the season due to injuries, Harden kept the Rockets from crashing. He led a respectable cast of Terrence Jones, Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith and Corey Brewer to the top of the Western Conference, earning the second seed in the loaded West. Fortunately for Harden, Howard returned towards the end of the season and provided the Rockets with the front-court presence they lacked in his absence. However, the injury bug refused be squashed, as the return of Howard’s was met with the loss of Patrick Beverley from the perimeter, leaving Harden without his defensive-minded back-court mate. The inconsistencies in the lineup, hitting the Rockets at possibly the worst time in the 2015 postseason only inspired Clutch City, resulting in what turned out to be a memorable playoff run.
The Rockets took care of Mark Cuban’s, Dallas Mavericks, in five and came back from a 3-1 deficit to shock the Los Angeles Clippers in seven, reserving their seat in the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors. It was only fitting that the top two in the NBA MVP race would get to matchup. The Dubs exposed the Rockets and highlighted two very significant things: The Warriors are indeed better and outside of Harden, no-one else on Houston’s roster was capable of creating their own shot.
Harden saw plenty of double teams in his first trip to the Western Conference Finals.The Warriors threw the kitchen sink at him, and frustrated the 3-time All-Star, ending his matchup with the league MVP in five games. All in all, Hardens sixth year in the league was still a great year. He pretty much led the league in scoring, pouring in 27.4 points per game behind Westbrooks 28.1, and exhibited his versatility as a playmaker, distributing the ball effectively for seven assists a game.
Curry doesn’t have to do it all for the Warriors to win, Harden does. That’s why I think the NBA players chose the latter opposed to the media. Kobe Bryant picked Harden. Cuban did too. And apparently so did Harden’s peers. I would think winning the MVP award voted by your peers carries more significance than the basketball enthusiasts that have never played on the professional level and to that, Harden finally got the award he believed he deserved in the first place. It will be interesting to see if the real MVP will stand up next season. Harden will be inspired to validate his honors and I have to believe that Curry is ticked off by witnessing another name hoist the award he was originally given, even if it was on BET.