It’s hard to argue against Golden State’s Stephen Curry for MVP, but if anyone has a greater argument, it’s Houston’s James Harden.
Rarely is one player ever responsible for a team having either success or failure. Basketball is a team game, just like any other team sport.
Houston lost Dwight Howard for 11 straight games in the early part of the season. Houston went 8-3 during that stretch.
Then, the Rockets lost Howard for 26 games in a row through the latter part of the season. The Rockets managed to go 17-9.
Overall, Howard missed 41 games this season and Houston 27-14. Terrence Jones also missed significant time (49 games).
During the games Howard missed due to injury, Harden carried the load.
In the first stint, Harden averaged 29.1 points per game, six rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.2 blocks in 38.1 minutes.
In the second stint, Harden’s numbers dropped some but he was still very impressive: 26.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.8 steals and .6 blocks in 37.8 minutes.
Harden propelled the Rockets to 56 wins this season and had the most win shares in the league this season (16.4), edging out Curry’s 15.7.
Harden scored the most points, played the most minutes, and attempted and made the most free throws.
While Curry has Harden beat in some statistical categories, there is no measure for how a player performs when other key players are out due to injury. Andrew Bogut is the only player on the Warriors who missed significant time with injury, and he missed just 15 games. The Warriors were 9-6 in those games.
With Howard out, Harden single-handedly kept the Rockets in the top-tier of the Western Conference playoff hunt.
Curry got a lot of help because Draymond Green and Klay Thompson had career years.
Green averaged 22 minutes per game last season, and this year his production jumped 47 percent in points, 41.8 percent in rebounds, 48.6 percent in assists, while his minutes increased by only 30 percent.
Thompson saw a 15 percent spike in points, despite his minutes decreasing by 11 percent. His player efficiency rating increased 29.8 percent.
Curry’s numbers were down in terms of points, assists and minutes, from 24 to 23.8, 8.5 to 7.7 and 36.5 to 32.7.
His efficiency was up from 24.1 to 28.
The biggest thing, though, is that Harden didn’t play with a single player in his prime. Curry is playing with two or three players, who are either in or are just entering their prime (Thompson, Green and Harrison Barnes).
Golden State had six players register at least five win shares this season. Houston had only two, Harden and Trevor Ariza.
I’m not saying Curry didn’t have a great season, because he did, I’m saying that Golden State has a better team and that’s why it won 67 games. Curry was a big reason, but so were Thompson and Green.
Harden was forced to shoulder the load for pretty much the entire season.
Normally, MVP-voters are correct when picking the MVP.
They got it wrong this year.