Every year, the NBA hands out its awards as the postseason rolls along, with a different honor being announced every few days. Thus far, the 2015 awards season has not been kind to the Houston Rockets.
A week or so ago, the Coach of the Year award was given to Atlanta's Mike Budenholzer, a deserving winner to be sure, but Rockets head coach Kevin McHale's sixth place finish was decidedly undeserved. In the minds of many Rocket fans, McHale should have finished higher in the balloting.
And then last week, the NBA's Executive of the Year award was given out, and somehow Daryl Morey, who's constructed the current Rockets team almost entirely on lopsided trades, masterful free agency signings, and solid non-lottery drafting, finished seventh. That one is less shocking, only because the voting constituency is other NBA executives, a group that is probably envious of the waves positive publicity Morey gets despite having only been the GM for two playoff series wins.
Truth be told, though, the Most Valuable Player award is the one we've all been waiting on, and if reports from the Bay Area are true, it appears the Rockets are about to get snubbed again.
As first reported by Monte Pool of CSN Bay Area, the Golden State Warriors Steph Curry will be named the league's MVP sometime this week. James Harden will finish as runner up, despite leading the league in win shares, points scored, and minutes played.
Truth be told, the coronation of Curry is the least surprising result of the all the awards for which the Rockets have a contender. The narrative for the sixth year guard has been brewing since January, when the Warriors established a torrid pace which eventually led to a 67 win season, and when the previous two league MVP's both hit rough patches, LeBron James missing two weeks with a knee injury and Kevin Durant suffering a foot injury for which he is now recovering from surgery.
Anybody who regularly watches Warrior games knows that this isn't just a lazy "best player on best team" vote. Curry's Warriors are a noticeably different offensive team when Curry is off the floor. He is a worthy MVP.
However, Harden's case for the MVP award is a strong one. Not only does he measure up statistically (runner up for scoring title, as well), but consider that the other Rocket starters from the beginning of the season all missed well over 100 games, including Dwight Howard's missing exactly half the season. Still, behind Harden's brilliance, the Rockets were able to secure the two seed in the stout Western Conference.
"I think the most valuable player is the player who produces the most wins for his team," Morey said for a column in last week's Houston Press. "James has produced the most wins of anybody in the league this season. That's a huge part of it."
The good news is the two candidates are on a collision course for a matchup in the Western Conference Finals, conjuring up images of 1995 when that season's MVP David Robinson faced off with the Rockets and the previous season's MVP, Hakeem Olajuwon. In that series, Olajuwon averaged 35 points and 13 rebounds per game, leading the Rockets to a 4-2 series win. I think Rocket fans would gladly let Curry celebrate his individual award in exchange for a similar outcome this season.
On a broader scale, this is Houston's second athlete to finish runner up for his league's MVP award, as J.J. Watt finished second to Aaron Rodgers for the NFL's iteration of the award in 2014. Hopefully, this sets up a tag team match at Wrestlemania with Watt and Harden squaring off with Rodgers and Curry.
Unlike the MVP voting, I'd definitely like Houston chances in that one.