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James Harden says wins should be top factor in MVP race

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Harden on MVP: 'I thought winning was most important' (0:28)

James Harden says that team record should be the metric heavily used to pick the MVP. (0:28)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said Sunday that wins should matter when it comes to the Most Valuable Player award.

On the season, Harden's Rockets have 54 victories, good for the third-best record in the tough Western Conference. The other major candidate for the MVP award, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, is leading a team with 46 victories, sixth in the West. San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard, another candidate, has 61 victories with his team as the No. 2 seed in the West.

"I think that's the most important thing. I thought winning is what this is about -- period," Harden said after recording his 21st triple-double of the season in the Rockets' win over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. "I'm not going to get in-depth with all that, but I thought winning was the most important thing. If you set your team up in a position to have a chance, at the ultimate goal, that's the most important thing."

Harden addressed the topic a day after Rockets general manager Daryl Morey began a series of tweets that weighed in on the debate.

According to Elias Sports Bureau research, the past 34 MVPs' teams have been ranked in the top three of their respective conferences in wins. In that stretch, only two were ranked outside the top two: Steve Nash in 2005-06 and Michael Jordan in 1987-88. Overall, 45 of the 61 MVP winners finished the season first in the conference. Only 12 of the 61 MVP winners finished the season ranked first in triple-doubles.

Westbrook set an NBA single-season record for triple-doubles with his 42nd in Sunday's victory over the Denver Nuggets.

"It's a huge accomplishment," Harden said of Westbrook, whom he's close friends with. "He's been playing extremely well all season long, it's never been done before, it's a great individual accomplishment, and it's great."

Harden is also setting himself up for a special accomplishment. Coming into Sunday's games, Harden was scoring or assisting on 56.3 points per game. The NBA record for the highest combined single-season average of points and points off assists is 56.8 set by Tiny Archibald in 1972-73.

"It's just another great individual stat," Harden said. "But like I said, my job is to go out there and try to get my teammates involved, try to build their confidence so we're able to go out there and play and everybody is feeling good that's the most important thing. If none of my teammates are feeling good, I won't be anything, and we won't be far as to where we're trying to go.

"That's the most important thing. That's my job every night, and I think for the most part, guys are feeling good. We just got to continue to keep going."