Forgetting the Clutch

By Chet Kennedy

We’ve all had or heard the MVP debate. I personally have said horrific things to friends, family and loved ones defending our beloved Prairie King’s claim to the trophy. When you hear insane, ignorant things like “Harden should be MVP”, the anger is rightfully justified. As Mother Teresa probably once said, “Respect the Brodie, or I’ll cut you”.  It’s easy to forgive the emotional rhetoric, this is a big deal after all, but as talks of Co-MVP’s are being thrown around more and more, it’s not just the player being disrespected but also the legacy, history, and magnitude of what’s being accomplished. Even the casual NBA fan understands the significance of a triple-double, much less averaging one for the season. Make no mistake, James Harden has had an MVP-worthy season, just not the most worthy. Even if hypothetically they were tied at this point, which they aren’t, all you need is a handful of statistics to break the tie. For some reason, no one mentions these ignored “clutch time” stats. What is a clutch time stat you ask? Simple, clutch time refers to gameplay during the 4th quarter or overtime, with less than 5 minutes to go, with neither team ahead by more than 5 points. Hmm, sounds like a pretty important stat, especially when talking about the Most Valuable Player. Not sure how or why analysts like Chris Webber miss that, even when he’s in between taking power dumps on OKC. So how do the numbers stack up?

Clutch Time Total Points Scored

Russ-211, Beard-132

Now the counter argument to this is “Russ gets more opportunities in clutch time”, but that’s exactly the point. It’s not so much Harden has way better players around him, it’s that the Rockets have had multiple seasons to build around Harden with players that suit his game. OKC has basically had to duct tape a complimentary roster on the fly after Front Runner left in the offseason. Harden carries a lesser team load than Russ because he has more players that can cover his weaknesses and highlight his strengths.

Clutch Time FG% and 3-pt %

Russ- 43% FG (28% 3-pt), Beard- 37% FG (27% 3-pt)

Getting even more interesting. Diving deeper into the FG % just solidifies the Westbrook case, the guy has taken more than twice the amount of clutch time FG’s as Harden (162 to 80) and still has a substantial lead in percentage. Harden can’t even catch a break with 3-point percentage, which is honestly kind of shocking. Shall we continue?

Clutch Time FT%

Russ-85%, Beard 77%

Russ is pretty much where he is normally during the season (84%), this stat is more about Harden or lack thereof. Harden, also sits at 84% on the year and dropping significantly when the game is on the line is not what you want from an MVP, especially when both candidates get to the line more than anyone else in the league.

Clutch Time (under 1 minute to play) FG %

Russ-34%, Beard-22%

In case you still don’t f****** get it, there it is. Forgetting what we know and have seen from Harden (cough 2012 Finals cough), there shouldn’t be any debate on who the better player is when it matters most. Besides, there’s nothing clutch about banging the ugly Kardashian.

So please, take a step back and examine, there’s only one choice and it isn’t close. Russ has better stats, is breaking legendary records, doing things only one other man in history has done, and also dominates in crunch time. Case closed. I can’t wait to hear the King’s speech.

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