ESPN NBA reporter Brian Windhorst and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey dropped by CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show on Wednesday to discuss James Harden’s MVP candidacy.
Windhorst is likely voting for Mike D’Antoni for Coach of the Year, he is likely voting for Eric Gordon for Sixth Man of the year, and he believes that Morey should be in the mix for Executive of the Year. But he is likely not voting for Harden, who is averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds and has led Houston (54-27) to the third-best record in the NBA.
“I know that historically, it is the team with the better record,” Windhorst said on The Doug Gottlieb Show, referring to the MVP vote. “But I just think Russell Westbrook – (the Thunder are) 33-9 when he gets a triple-double. (That) is a very compelling stat, and I think he’s carried them to new heights. I think it’s been a historic season, and I think it’s going to take a historic vote.”
Morey understands Windhorst’s argument, but he believes Harden is more deserving.
“James Harden is our engine that makes us go,” he said. “Before the season, we thought we could be a 50-win team. Obviously James has really lifted us to heights that we didn’t really expect in terms of being mid-50s and the third-best team in the league and right in the title conversation. We’re ahead of our own expectations.”
Ironically, the Harden-led Rockets will face the Westbrook-led Thunder (47-34) in the first round of the playoffs.
“Obviously both guys have had unbelievable seasons, and you really can’t go wrong,” Morey said. “They’re both forces of nature. They’ve both put up amazing numbers. But historically, if you’re going to base it on history, 50 years of the MVP vote, it’s always gone to someone who’s put up the historic special numbers, which they both have, and at the same time been one of the top few teams in the league and a title contender with a reasonable chance to win the title. We’re that team, and James has elevated us to that level. All the other candidates either don’t have the historic elevating their team, or they don’t have a team that is right there in the championship conversation.
“People get hung up on numbers,” Morey continued. “They get hung up on who they thought would win before the season. They get hung up on the magic of being able to describe one season versus another. The reality is if you take an objective look at it and you say, hey, let’s look at how MVPs have been given out in the past . . . James Harden is the favorite.”
Doug Gottlieb pointed out that Harden is having success in a system that Morey designed perfectly for him. Right players, right coach, right everything. Westbrook, meanwhile, has done what he’s done on the fly and through sheer force of will.
“That may be true, but that shouldn’t affect his candidacy,” Windhorst said. “I voted for James two years ago over Steph. He’s a way better player now, and here I am probably not going to be giving him my vote. What the Rockets and Daryl have been doing, I think, should be really commended. Daryl is fighting for his guy, and I hope James really appreciates it. This is a guy who’s under contract. It’s not like they’re worried about him leaving. I really appreciate that Daryl is fighting for his guy.”