The start of the brand new NBA season has kicked off in extraordinary fashion, giving us two players who have seemed to excelled above the rest. James Harden and Russell Westbrook, former teammates, have enacted a constant duel to leave us in awe. Houston Rockets new coach Mike D’Antoni who is known for his offensive coaching left a bad mark on many sports fans after seemingly running the LA Lakers into the ground. But he’s been given a second chance and appointing Harden to the point guard of this Rocket offense has taken Harden’s electrifying excellence to another level that has seen him lead the league in assists.
James Harden is currently having one of his best seasons, not only are the Rockets currently sitting at third in the Western Conference at 24-9, he is also averaging astonishing numbers at 27.7 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, whilst dishing out 11.9 assists per game. His ability to be a creative and smart distributor is probably the soul reason right now why the Rockets offense is destroying teams. They recently broke the NBA record as a team for hitting the most three pointers in a game 24, and it was the Rockets who got close to the mark a few years back when they made a remarkable 23 three’s.
When comparing Harden’s numbers to the rest of the league most don’t even come close. Harden’s ability to drive to the basket and draw the foul has become almost one of his patterned move’s and Harden is averaging 84.2% from the free throw line whilst the rest of the league is averaging 76.6%. In a league that is averaging 35.5% from the three point line Harden comes very close, as he averages 35%, and lead his team today in a win against Dallas, as the Rockets hit 17 of 32 from the perimeter shooting at an incredible 53%.
With the departure of Dwight Howard, and the promotion of Clint Capela to starting center and the arrivals of shooters Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson has put Harden in a position where he can play to his strengths and run the whole show, so much so he recently told the Houston Chronicle that his new supporting cast is a “masterpiece”. With the Rockets bowing out in last seasons playoffs it saw the firing of head coach Kevin McHale, but to these guys now it’s long forgotten.
“We all have down seasons, bad games, bad plays or whatever,” Harden said. “It’s how you bounce back. Bad things are going to happen, things aren’t going to always go your way, but it’s about how fast you can get back up. I’m not surprised how quickly playing point has come together . I was already a playmaker, I was already unselfish. Having the basketball in my hands at the beginning of the game just makes my job easier.”
Houston’s most notable win of the season came as the visiting Rockets beat the Golden State Warriors in double overtime. Right now I think the Houston Rockets are one of the most exciting teams to watch, and could be the kryptonite to the Warriors 2017 NBA playoff run.
When talking about this years MVP race we obviously can’t go past the triple double making machine Russell Westbrook. Since Kevin Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City Thunder last season Westbrook has taken the reign of this team at full force holding OKC in the fifth spot in the west with a 20-12 record. Westbrook’s numbers are almost unbelievable with numbers like 31.1 points per game, 11 assists per game and, 10.9 rebounds per game his early work has been showered with praise thanks to a whopping 12 triple doubles in his first 24 games. From a pure stat-accumulation standpoint, Westbrook is up to something seriously special, and could be the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double for an entire NBA regular season.
Westbrook has maintained a very healthy level of efficiency and an extraordinarily positive impact on his team’s performance while shouldering the single biggest burden of the three-point era 41.2 usage rate. Critics from all over the globe argue that Westbrook is “doing too much” and that the Thunder would be better off with a more balanced approach. In fact numbers suggest otherwise, and that is OKC are hopeless whenever Westbrook leaves the court. So the questions remain, how long before Westbrook tires out? And will OKC be a championship contender? Well one thing for sure is OKC have no chance in contending for a championship with there current roster, but that doesn’t mean Russell Westbrook can’t continue to live in joy over his current season.
Despite his stellar season Westbrook will still need to over come more hurdles including how to beat the powerhouse Golden State Warriors, the veteran brilliance of the San Antonio Spurs and of course the offensive juggernaut of the Houston Rockets. Right now though from a numbers perspective Westbrook is our pick to be this years MVP.
*Image Source: slamonline.com