Besides, it’s not like what Harden is doing is some ho-hum accomplishment. No one has averaged 29 points and 11 assists per game since 1973, when Tiny Archibald accomplished that for a mediocre Kansas City-Omaha Kings team. Harden’s doing it for a squad on pace to win 56 games. Harden was given a new position and the reins to a team loaded with shooters, and he’s aced just about every test.
Harden also happens to be averaging just three points fewer than Westbrook on six fewer shots per game. Kawhi and LeBron are each six points per game behind Russ on about eight fewer shooting possessions. This might be dismissed as contrarianism or fealty to efficiency. But if we’re going to base MVP candidacies on numbers, we should look at all of the numbers. And the basic fact is that it’s easier to win the scoring title when you’re taking four shots per game more than any other player.
There’s no doubt that Westbrook’s performance has been incredible on a nightly basis. Burneko’s smartest point is that the consistency of Westbrook’s breathtaking excellence has dulled its impact: he has actually made 40-10-10 look normal. It’s not. This is something to keep in mind as we watch the last 20 games and judge the candidates on their merits.
It’s also something to remember as we weigh LeBron’s case. We’ve had 14 years of LeBron doing unthinkable things in the NBA. He is as good as ever this season, carrying a heavy load for an excellent team. History suggests he’s still the best player in the NBA, despite having fallen out of the MVP race most seasons. Ask the Warriors circa June 2016.
In 1979, a USC alum and businessman named Jerry Buss purchased the Los Angeles Lakers. Buss had two goals for his new franchise: Make the team good, and make the entertainment level just as high.
He modeled some facets of the team’s arena after a popular Santa Monica club, which included dimming the crowd lights and turning the Forum Club into the hottest nightclub in the city.