Point/Counterpoint: NBA MVP, The Beard or The Brow?

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In this Nov. 18, 2017 photo, Houston Rockets guards James Harden, left, and Chris Paul warm up before and NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis, Tenn. ((AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

In this Nov. 18, 2017 photo, Houston Rockets guards James Harden, left, and Chris Paul warm up before and NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis, Tenn. ((AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

The NBA regular season concludes tonight, meaning the MVP campaigns throughout the league also come to an end. The general consensus for this year’s MVP award is a race between James Harden and Anthony Davis, so who will win: The Beard or The Brow?

Sam Newton: When we are discussing the MVP race, we must be able to clearly analyze how each and every player who is in the running has contributed to their respective team’s success throughout the entire NBA season. Statistically, James Harden is currently the leading scorer in the NBA at 30.6 ppg, and he is the leader of the team with the best record in the NBA. Just from that information, he deserves MVP consideration. In addition, he is third in the league in assists and first in 3-pointers made, and he holds the first and third-highest single-game scoring outputs of this season with 60 points and 56 points, respectively. There is no doubt Harden is having an historic season. His flashy handles, exuberating confidence and revision of the isolation game are the main factors in his stellar play. Harden plays alongside a Hall of Fame worthy player in Chris Paul, who is known for his pass-first mentality, yet Harden is still able to set his teammates up to score nearly nine times per game. This goes to show how effective of a player he is with the ball in his hands. Yet with the addition of CP3 on the Rockets this year, he had to learn to play off the ball as well and let his teammate run the point. This versatility of play that Harden has showed playing on and off the ball, along with the isolation plays that allow him to hit a step back jumper or make a flashy drive to the paint, has made opposing defenders look clueless on the floor. That is why Harden gets my MVP vote for the 2017-18 season.

Sean Janos: I’ll admit, Harden has been having one of the most unique seasons I’ve ever seen from a player. But I’m going to have to be “that guy” that takes the term MVP very literally for what it means, which is the most valuable player to the player’s team. Anthony Davis has single handedly carried his Pelicans to a 47-34 record (as of Tuesday afternoon), which is good for the No. 5 seed in the daunting Western Conference. He’s right behind Harden in ppg with 28.2, fifth in rebounds with 11.0 per game and gets 2.6 bpg, which leads the entire league by a whole 0.7. In addition, Davis shoots 54 percent, which is 18th in the league, while Harden is shooting 45 percent, which is 82nd. Davis, who has had to carry his entire offense with DeMarcus Cousins injured, shoots nine percent better than Harden on only 0.7 less shot attempts per game. Then, there’s the defensive side of the ball. Davis is leaps and bounds better at defense than Harden. While I agree Harden got a bad reputation for being a lazy defender and has improved a lot this season, Davis is arguably the league’s best rim protector not named Rudy Gobert. Davis is also very quick and agile for his size and can switch out to the perimeter without being a liability, which is crucial in today’s perimeter-centric league. Looking at these players’ rosters, Harden gets a lot more help from his teammates. Outside of Davis, the Pelicans have no healthy players that come close to the skill level of Chris Paul or even Clint Capela. I’d argue these two key players, along with coach Mike D’Antoni’s coaching style, are to credit for Harden’s statistical jump, as well as the Rockets’ ascension to the top of the league’s standings.

Newton: You make a good point in saying the players around Anthony Davis are not as skillful as the rest of the players on the Rockets. Davis does deserve a lot of credit for the Pelicans’ success this season. With the current state of the NBA, teams are valuing perimeter players over big men. Players who are able to shoot, drive and get their teammates involved are generally the most effective in leading their teams to success. James Harden exemplifies all three of these categories. He has the most polished offensive skills in the NBA, and you’re right: his defensive presence gets overlooked. He is still able to create 1.8 steals per game and 0.7 blocks per game, both solid contributions. I think with Harden’s historically elite offensive skills and a solid defensive season, his contributions are more valuable in the NBA than Anthony Davis’ strong defensive statistics and somewhat raw perimeter play in an increasingly offensive and perimeter-oriented league.

Janos: I think it is all the more impressive that Davis is able to succeed so much in a league that has become tailored for guards to have success. He’s doing everything that a big man is supposed to do at an elite level and on top of that, he displays impressive guard skills on the perimeter. He has added a decent 3-point shot to his game since he has entered the league. He went from having no more than 0.2 3-point attempts per game in his first three seasons to 2.2 attempts per game here in his sixth season. Plus, he’s making them at a 34 percent mark, so teams have to respect the threat from the 6-foot-11 product of Kentucky. Throw in the ball handling skill of a guard and freak-like length and athleticism, and you have The Brow, the most complete player in the NBA and the rightful MVP.


Sean Janos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sean.janos@uconn.edu.

Sam Newton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at samuel.newton@uconn.edu.

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