National sports personalities are highly annoying this time of year.
After ONE PLAYOFF GAME (Game 1 of Rockets-Thunder) in which his teammates struggled, many implied that they played like that the whole year and said “Look at what Westbrook has to play with.”
Well why don’t we…
Harden had Patrick Beverley as his backcourt mate, while Westbrook had Oladipo. Both good 3 point shooters (pretty similar 3 point stats), both good defenders – with many arguing Beverley is a great defender. Bev is a little more nasty on D, but Oladipo gives a little more total package on Offense, and I would say more “help” on offense. OVERALL = PUSH (slight edge to Oladipo for the regular season… but Beverley’s playoff intensity makes it a push in the playoffs).
On the wing, Harden had Ariza while Westbrook had Roberson. Ariza is a great defender, Roberson is an ELITE defender. Ariza is definitely the better shooter, and while a good athlete is not the super athlete that Roberson is. Both are limited offensively and not much “help” in creating offense. OVERALL = PUSH (slight edge to Ariza due to shooting)
At the stretch 4, Harden had Anderson while Westbrook had Sabonis. Anderson is a great shooter while Sabonis is an average shooter. Both have average NBA post games at this point. Defense is neither one’s forte. Anderson would definitely be described as more “help”. OVERALL = ADVANTAGE HARDEN
At center, they both had pretty similar players too in Capela and Adams. Capela does slightly out perform Adams in per minute production in the major categories (points, rebounds, blocks). OVERALL = PUSH (slight edge to Capela)
So, that’s one starter who is a clear upgrade (Anderson over Sabonis) and the other three as pretty similar “helpful” teammates.
How about the bench?
I’m not counting Lou Williams or Taj Gibson. Both only played in 23 games with their teams.
The primary bench weapon was Eric Gordon for the Rockets and Enes Kanter for the Thunder.
Gordon averaged 16 points, but did so with a starter’s level of minutes at 31. Kanter averaged 14 points, but only needed 21 minutes to get them. While Gordon has been hyped as great “help” off the bench, that production comparison shows Kanter was just as helpful, if not moreso.
Now, the contributions that Houston received from Nene, Dekker, Harrell, and Brewer were pretty similar to that of Grant, Abrines, Christon, Morrow, and Lauvergne. But, Nene is the superior player out of all those, and thus pushes the “help” label more to Harden than Westbrook.
In summary, the starters give Harden a slight edge in “help” status. And the bench as a slight edge to the Rockets too, with Nene AND Gordon as starting caliber players, while only Kanter as that type of player for the Thunder.
So the prevailing wisdom is correct, Harden had more help than Westbrook. But the gap was close.
2 years ago when Curry beat out Harden for the MVP, Harden was seen to carry the load more with less help. Curry scored less points (23 to Harden’s 27), but averaged slightly more assists due to his help (7.5 assists to Harden’s 7 assists that year).
This year, Harden seems to be on the other side of the coin. Westbrook is seen to have carried more of a load (and had to score more), but Harden has more assists due to his better help.
Based on this history, I would think Harden is due to win the award. But based on the media’s disrespect of Harden last year in 2016, in which he improved his 2015 2nd place MVP stats of scoring (27.4 to 29), rebounding (5.7 to 6.1), and assists (7.0 to 7.5) but still was left off the ALL-NBA Teams, Westbrook may still have a chance.