The Most Valuable Player race in the NBA is one of the best that we have ever witnessed. There are four candidates who have a legitimate shot at being named MVP this season. With just a couple of weeks left in the regular season, this race is coming down to the wire. Perennial MVP-candidate LeBron James has his name in the mix for MVP this season, despite have a “down” year in terms of how his stats usually turn out. James Harden has done an awful lot for the Houston Rockets this season despite not having Dwight Howard for the entire season. Steph Curry is the best player on the NBA’s best team right now. However, the dark horse in this race is Russell Westbrook, who is willing the Thunder night-in and night-out to the playoffs as well as willing himself to the top of the MVP leaderboard.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are considered a top team each year when both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are healthy and in the lineup. Unfortunately for the Thunder, the injury bug has not been kind to the two superstars this season. During the early goings of the season, both Westbrook and Durant missed a few games together. Now, it’s just Durant missing games, as he is likely out of the rest of the season due to a foot injury. The injury has limited the reigning, defending MVP to just 27 games this season. The decision to shut KD down for the season is a smart one not only for his health, but the future of the Thunder franchise. Now, Westbrook is the sole leader of this team and is showing what he can do without the side of Durant. He is showing what he can do as the go-to guy without the added pressure of him and Durant not being able to coexist, which they have both reiterated in the past that they get along just fine. He is the reason that this team even has a shot at making the playoffs this year.
Westbrook has been a force to be reckon with during the second half of this season. He scored 41 points in the All-Star Game, including 27 in 11 first-half minutes. In the month of February, Westbrook averaged 31.2 points-per-game, 9.1 rebounds-per-game and 10.3 assists-per-game, joining only Oscar Robertson as the only two players in NBA history to average at least 30/9/10 for a calendar month. For an encore, he is in the process of going off in the month of March. He is currently averaging 30.2 points-per-game, 10.8 assists-per-game and 8.5 rebounds-per-game. He even suffered an injury to his face, had a procedure done, missed just one game, then returned not even a week later to drop a career-high 49 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists against the Philadelphia 76ers, dawning a protective mask.
Westbrook will likely not be the MVP this season, but he should be. He ranks second in Player Efficiency Rating, trailing only Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans. He leads the league in scoring at 27.3, narrowly ahead of Harden (27.1). He also averages more assists than Harden, James and Curry. He is doing all of this without Durant and now Serge Ibaka, who recently had a knee procedure to end his season. The race will likely conclude with either Harden or Curry winning the MVP, but Westbrook should be the one who wins. It doesn’t help that Westbrook and the media don’t get along.