Either winning matters when it comes to winning MVP or it doesn’t. But not according to the NBA. Over the past few seasons, the NBA’s MVP voters have flip-flopped their philosophy on this issue. And it’s absolutely screwed over James Harden.
Let’s go back to the 2014-15′ NBA season. LeBron’s first season back in Cleveland. There were two frontrunners for MVP for much of that year: Steph Curry and James Harden. Though Harden had better numbers than Curry almost across the board, the voters gave Curry the MVP.
It was a respectable choice, even if I maybe didn’t agree with it. Curry’s Warriors won a league best 67 games that season, while Harden’s Rockets won “only” 56, which qualified for the 2-seed. The logic was that the two were close enough in production that the success of the Warriors as a team was enough to give Curry the award.
Again, I don’t necessarily agree with that logic, but I see where the voters were coming from. But they have to at least be consistent with that logic, which they haven’t been.
Flash forward to the 2016-17′ season, where Harden was again a legitimate MVP contender. Harden and Russell Westbrook–the two frontrunners–had very similar statisitics, and, despite Westbrook’s triple double average, I would argue that Harden had an even better statistical season. Check out their stat comparisons adjusted for usage rate:
So are we really going to claim that Westbrook had a better statistical season than Harden because he had an absolutely absurd usage rate?
The argument for Westbrook was that the massive usage rating proved that he was more valuable to his team than Harden. But if that was the criteria by which the voters voted, wouldn’t Harden have won the MVP in 2014-15′? He led the Rockets to the 2-seed with a washed Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza as his top teammates, while Curry had Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
The hyprocrisy continues in the fact that the voters decided that winning didn’t matter at all when it came to the MVP in 2017, despite valuing it more than anything in 2015. Curry won the award because his team won more games.
It should’ve been the same scenario last season. Harden and Westbrook had similar statistical seasons, so, according to past precedent, Harden should’ve won like Curry did in 15′.
I’m not saying that Harden should have two MVP awards. He should have one. Either winning matters when it comes to these type of awards or it doesn’t.
But like most politicians, the philosophy of the voters changes with the seasons, and it’s absolutely screwed over James Harden.