Tag Archives: James Harden

Russell Westbrook should be starting the All-Star game

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Westbrook is an All-Star starter in all but actually being one.  Source: Bleacher Report

Two players are currently the front-runners for the league’s Most Valuable Player trophy at the end of the season. However, only one of them will be starting the All-Star game, showcasing the NBA’s best talent, in November.

Russell Westbrook has been on a tear this season. With the departure of Kevin Durant weighing heavily on his shoulders, it’s pretty much his outstanding form alone that’s kept the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoff race.

He leads the league in points per game, averaging 30.6 a night and is currently the only player averaging a triple double, which is insanity. There has only ever been one player to maintain it throughout an entire season, the great Oscar Robinson, which just highlights how monumental that feat is.

Voting ended with the weighed rankings leaving him, James Harden and Steph Curry neck-and-neck. The fans ranked Curry ahead of Harden then Westbrook, while the player’s and media votes put number zero up top, Harden second and the reigning MVP third.

With that, Curry goes in ahead of Westbrook. Is that fair?

No. Curry’s role with the Golden State Warriors has unsurprisingly diminished this season with the introduction of Durant. He’s no longer the top scorer on the team, he’s not the leading assist maker and he’s barely the best three-point shooter ahead of Klay Thompson.

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Curry is a great player but this year, he should not be an All-Star starter. Source: nbabayarea.com

While he’s not putting up awful numbers, quite the contrary he’s still an exceptional player, he’s not killing it night in and night out like Westbrook. All of his averages are down this season, he’s not the key to the Warriors any more but he’s still a once-in-a-generation talent.

That still doesn’t mean he deserves to start over Westbrook. He’s pulling his team out of the mire on a nightly basis, bringing everything he has to get them in a position to win and even when he does go off, sometimes they don’t win.

The fan voting and popularity of Curry got him in over the body of work over the course of the current season. That’s not what these games are meant for, a reward for those who have earned it rather than a tool for fans to see an exhibition.

Some may dismiss it as that but at the end of the day, people still rank players on their All-Star appearances. Those that maybe only made one Finals or failed to get a ring are then weighed up on MVP wins and then All-Star appearances, so it can’t be said that it simply doesn’t matter.

There was a re-jig in the voting system this year after Zaza Pachulia got a ridiculous number of votes last year but it hasn’t worked. It still pulled the wrong names out of the hat and gave those deserving a cold shoulder.

Isaiah Thomas has been on a tear scoring this season and is another big miss but this one on paper is the more blatant. Westbrook has proven he’s a sensational talent and deserved the nod more than pretty much anyone.

Credit to him for saying he didn’t care, which is not surprising, but it will just add fuel to the fire. Fuel to win another All-Star MVP, fuel to push himself to being out alone to win the overall MVP and quite possibly push him to crush as many as he can take with him come playoff time.

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Are James Harden and DeMar DeRozan legitimate MVP candidates?

Toronto Raptors beat Indiana Pacers in game five 102-99 in their first round NBA playoff series

DeRozan has become an offensive machine and could be a dark horse for MVP. Source: The Undefeated

After the first month or so of the NBA season, there are already whispers about the MVP award. With Kevin Durant unsurprisingly impressing in his new surroundings at the Golden State Warriors, LeBron James doing things only the king does and Blake Griffin rebounding on the best team in the league, there are a fair few candidates putting themselves forward.

Two that have really caught the eye are two that could be there if they keep this kind of form going. DeMar DeRozan has elevated his already great offensive game for the Toronto Raptors and James Harden is simply adding to his special tool-set down with the Houston Rockets.

DeRozan is playing some of the best basketball of his life and it’s a marketed step up from someone who is already at an All-Star level. The 27-year-old is averaging 30.9 points per game, over seven points better than his career-best set last season and is a solid .491 from the field overall.

Those are some great numbers highlighted by the fact he takes just under two three-pointers a game. With a game that is only getting more shooter-happy, it’s great to see a midrange guy showing his excellence on offence from inside the arc.

USP NBA: PLAYOFFS-HOUSTON ROCKETS AT GOLDEN STATE S BKN USA CA

Source: For The Win

That is also emphasised by his ability to get to the line when he does slash into the paint. DeRozan averages 9.6 free throws per game and is .807 from the line so far, solid numbers that help pad what has been an outstanding scoring run so far from him.

Another player who is great at getting to the line is fellow early season MVP candidate James Harden, who has taken the move to point guard like a duck to water. He’s averaging 28.6 points per game, a relative standard for a high-volume scorer like him, but his league-leading 12.4 assists per contest highlights the influence he’s having on his entire team this season.

Add to that some solid rebounding (7.8 per game) and a solid .365 from beyond the three-point line and you have a stat-padder ready to take on anyone in the NBA. He’s probably the best player in the entire league at getting to the free throw line, leaving teams off balance as whether to close him or to stand off him.

When they attack, he punishes them with speed and a likely foul, which a .810 FT shooter tends not to miss. If they stand off, he rises and shoots from anywhere with his beautiful arching shot that seems to touch the roof on occasion before gliding through the hoop. There is a reason many tipped him to be a dark horse in this year’s MVP race.

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Westbrook is a bigger front-runner than the two, they both need to emulate his influence. Source: Bleacher Report

However, they are both without initial deficiencies that will hold them back unless they expand their game. DeRozan is simply a scorer and while ok on defence, he isn’t quite doing enough to keep his team winning while Harden can fall asleep when holding off the opposition.

Comparing them both to another big MVP candidate in Russell Westbrook just proves that both will need that bit more to legitimately chase that title this season. He’s better than both on average at scoring, he’s hit 10.4 assists per game and 9.6 rebounds, almost a triple-double a game.

All of their teams have similar records, all are doing a great job but Westbrook is doing literally everything he can to push his team on almost single-handedly. There’s no doubting their quality and the real positive is that there is plenty of time for them to help push their games to the next level along with their teams, which will only strengthen their candidacy.

Both are going to be All-Stars this year if they keep going and both of their teams should be shoo-ins for the playoffs. The real question is, can either of them push themselves to the point where they can be considered in the running for the MVP award? Only time will tell on that one.

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Damian Lillard comes out swinging after All-Star snub

This man is on a real tear.  Source: SB Nation

This man is on a real tear. Source: SB Nation

The message has been sent, loud and clear. Do not snub Portland Trail Blazers’ guard Damian Lillard, he will come back to haunt you.

The young point guard was passed over for the All-Star game in Toronto, admittedly amid a tough crowd of guards, but he has been exceptional. Averaging a career-high 25.1 points per game and 7.2 assists after being handed the face of the franchise since LaMarcus Aldridge’s departure is no mean feat.

In fact, comparing him to some other superstars shows you how well he’s doing. His three-point percentage (37.2%) is better than the likes of James Harden and DeMar DeRozan, while he also has more assists per game (7.2) than the best player in the NBA at this moment in time, Stephen Curry.

Lillard is solid from the free-throw line (86.2%), his turnover ratio is similar to other All-Star talent on similar minutes too. The main attribute he’s behind on is steals, his average of 1.1, is way below the likes of Curry, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul, who all average at least 2.

Not many put Curry on skates.  Source: YouTube

Not many put Curry on skates. Source: YouTube

However, Portland fans are starting to chant MVP since his snub and for good reason, the former Rookie of the Year has been on a tear.

In his last five games, Lillard has averaged 35.8 points per contest, which is already ridiculous. Combine that with the fact he’s shooting at a 49.5% clip and you have a real monster that’s slowly helping the Trail Blazers rise up in the Western Conference rankings.

What’s really impressive is that through this spell, he’s earning himself easy baskets. The 25-year-old is 23/32 on shots from within 10 feet of the basket, meaning that he’s picking his drives at the right time and making sure he’s finding an easier show when his team needs points on the board.

The real statement came against possibly the best opponent in the Golden State Warriors. Facing the best in the game, Lillard put up a career-high 51 points, shooting at 64.3% from the field , hitting 9/12 three-point shots while adding seven assists and six steal.

McCollum has helped make an incredibly exciting backcourt in Portland.  Source: USA Today

McCollum has helped make an incredibly exciting backcourt in Portland. Source: USA Today

What a barnstormer of a performance that is.

Admittedly, C.J McCollum’s rise has helped too, with the absolutely nailed-on Most Improved Player averaging 21.1 points per game. He notched 31 to Lillard’s 30 against  Utah Jazz and equalled his point guard’s 34 points against the Brooklyn Nets, highlighting how good these two young guards are.

In many eyes, only the Splash Brothers at the Warriors are better. While some could argue that DeRozan and Lowry should have something to say about it, there’s no doubt that Portland have a backcourt they can really excited about for the next eight to ten years.

And as for Lillard, it’s almost a certainty that if he keeps playing like this, he will not be ignored for long. Him and McCollum are both lifting the Blazers way above where most would think he would be and his on-the-court leadership, showing everyone how it’s done, has simply been exemplary.

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