Harden: Only winners are allowed to win MVP

Houston Rockets' James Harden reacts to the call of a referee during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors Friday, March 31, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

James Harden says wins should matter most when determining the NBA MVP.

The story:

Hours after Russell Westbrook set an NBA single-season record for triple-doubles and to some cinched his MVP bid—notching 50 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists and a game-winning three-pointer versus the Denver Nuggets—his main competitor, James Harden, said he believes wins should be the main factor in deciding the award.

Harden’s words:

“I think that’s the most important thing. I thought winning is what this is about — period,” Harden said after recording his 21st triple-double of the season in the Rockets’ win over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. “I’m not going to get in-depth with all that, but I thought winning was the most important thing. If you set your team up in a position to have a chance, at the ultimate goal, that’s the most important thing.”

Harden on Westbrook:

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Harden said of Westbrook. “He’s been playing extremely well all season long. It’s never been done before, it’s a great individual accomplishment, and it’s great.”

Former NBA MVP’s:

According to Elias Sports Bureau research, the past 34 MVPs’ teams have been ranked in the top three of their respective conferences in wins. In that stretch, only two were ranked outside the top two: Steve Nash in 2005-06 and Michael Jordan in 1987-88. Overall, 45 of the 61 MVP winners finished the season first in the conference. Only 12 of the 61 MVP winners finished the season ranked first in triple-doubles.

Rockets pushing for Harden:

The Rockets braintrust has been publicly pushing the wins narrative as the regular season comes to a close. General manager Daryl Morey, the strongest public proponent of Harden as MVP, has taken to Twitter over the last couple of days to make his case.

The team’s website even has a list of accomplishments meant to push Harden as the league’s most valuable player. Perhaps the biggest plus is that Harden, who averages 29.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 11.3 assists per game, is responsible for 56.3 points per game—the most since Tiny Archibald in 1972-73.

Should Leonard win MVP?:

Then there’s the issue of Kawhi Leonard. If winning is the most important thing, then does that mean the candidate that’s led his team to the most wins (and the Spurs currently have seven wins more than the Rockets) should win? Or do we have to go find the best candidate from the Warriors and give it to him? Leonard is averaging 25.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game on the league’s second-best team, while playing vastly superior defense compared to either Harden or Westbrook.

What do you think? Do you agree?

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