As good as Stephen Curry was this season – he averaged 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals and led the Warriors to an NBA-best 67-15 record – there are people who feel James Harden is more deserving of the MVP award.
Rockets play-by-play man Bill Worrell is one of those people.
“Well, I think it has to be (Harden),” Worrell said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “As great a player as Steph is, he always had Klay (Thompson). He had Draymond Green. He had really a great team that, fortunately for them, stayed healthy the whole season.”
Harden didn’t have that in Houston.
“You have Dwight missing half the season,” Worrell said of Howard, who missed exactly 41 games. “Donatas Motiejunas, he’ll miss the second half of the season, along with Pat Beverley. And Terrence Jones missing over half the season – 48 games. So you’re talking about four guys who at one time were starters who have been out of your lineup, and it’s been James Harden’s show. And he’s been able to still score enough and distribute the ball enough to lead his team to 56 wins.”
Harden averaged 27.4 points, 7.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 36.8 minutes per game.
“Now you think about that a minute,” Worrell reiterated. “The four guys who were starters (were) out of the lineup, (and) he was still able to get done what he got done. And I think it’s interesting down the stretch when he was in the scoring battle with (Russell) Westbrook, he didn’t take more shots. In fact, in the final game against Utah, he played only 27 minutes and had a triple double. Now how good is that?”
Pretty darn good.
Luckily for Harden and the Rockets, at least Howard is healthy at the right time. He played in nine games down the stretch after missing signifiant time with a knee injury. Scott Ferrall, however, wondered if the Rockets might actually be better off without Howard. After all, they’ve been rolling with Harden as the lead man, so it might be difficult to incorporate Howard back into the rotation.
Worrell didn’t think so.
“How are you going to be better off without a Dwight Howard?” he asked. “Since he’s been back playing limited minutes, we’ve been much better with him.”
Houston is 7-2 in games in which Howard has played since returning.
“They played very well to start the season out together, and I think they both appreciate the other one’s talents,” Worrell said of Harden and Howard. “But Dwight is acting like a kid again. He’s actually jumping and doing the things that made him a great player in the first place. That knee had just been bothering him so bad. Now he won’t have any backs-to-backs to worry about. But I think where he really helps the Rockets is more on the defensive end blocking shots, clogging up the lane. Dwight’s a great defensive player and he’s a great passer. They have co-existed very well together.”
They’ll have to, especially without Motiejunas and Beverley.
“That’s a big chunk to take out of your defense,” Worrell said. “That’s where they’ll need Dwight the most.”
Houston (56-26) hosts Dallas (50-32) in Game 1 this Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET.