The NBA regular season is finally coming to a close, so that means we are closer to finding out who will take home this year’s Most Valuable Player award. This season, there are four candidates that could take home the trophy and in no particular order, those candidates are LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden.
All four players have had tremendous seasons and are going to the postseason, but there can only be one winner and that winner is Westbrook.
Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook. Those are the only two players in NBA history to average a triple-double for the entire season. Russ did that this season and also broke the Big O’s record of 41 triple-doubles in a season with 42. In the game where Westbrook broke the record, he scored 50 points, grabbed 16 boards and dished out 10 assists and hit a game-winning, 36-foot buzzer beater to eliminate the Denver Nuggets from postseason contention. That was essentially a “drop the mic” type performance.
That was Westbrook’s third 50-point triple-double of the season and he has the most such games in NBA history, all done this season. Recording a triple-double and scoring 50 points in a game is extremely difficult to accomplish, he did it three times this season.
For the season he averages a career high in points at 31.9 (which leads the league in scoring), 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists. He’s played in 80 games this season, which has been a hot topic of the NBA as James has sat out seven this season.
Oklahoma City has won 47 games, 46 with Westbrook in the lineup. Now, that might not seem like a team that had someone average a triple-double, but take into consideration that this is a season after Kevin Durant left town and joined the Golden State Warriors. Many wrote the Thunder off when Durant departed, but Westbrook had other intentions.
Wins shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all in MVP debates, because if that were the case, the voters should just take the best player from the team who won the most games. Winning comes into play, but when you have a top-three player in the world leave your team, that says something about the other superstar who stayed on the team.
James could easily be the MVP each season he plays, but that’s not how it works. If that were the case, the same coach would win coach of the year every year and that certainly isn’t the case. Leonard has blossomed into his role as the Spurs franchise player after Tim Duncan retired last year. Harden has been fantastic, leading the league in assists per game at 11.2, but you’re going to have those type of numbers when you have a squad full of shooters.
Westbrook doesn’t have much help, which is why his historic season looks even better than it is. Time and time again he would have to be the man to do it all for the Thunder; scoring, getting his teammates open looks and rebounding the basketball. Also, add in the fact that Westbrook is a straight gunner, so his numbers are even more impressive in his first as primary ball handler, playmaker, and scorer.
The Thunder needed Westbrook to have this monumental season to even have a chance at the playoffs. Oklahoma City was 33-9 when Westbrook recorded a triple-double and 13-25 when he did not. To add on to his historic season, Westbrook recorded 13 of his 42 triple-doubles in the third quarter.
No matter who win the NBA MVP award, the case can be made for them. However, with such a historic season that has only been accomplished one other time, back in 1961-62 at that, the award has to go to Westbrook.