Written by: Matt McClure (@mattyice_42)
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Russell Westbrook is a one of a kind player. No one can get to the basket with as much ferocity and force as he can. He’s a guard that can outmuscle big men. There really is no one quite like him. The season that Westbrook has had thus far has carried the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 36-29 record, only three games out of a five seed in the very competitive Western Conference. A few nights ago, the Oklahoma City point guard posted his 31st triple double of the season. That is tied for the second most in a single season along with the legendary Wilt Chamberlain and trailing Oscar Robertson. And yet people are saying he may not be the league’s MVP. (I don’t even want to mention Mark Cuban’s blasphemous statements saying he’s not in the conversation for MVP.)
As of right now, Westbrook averages 31.9 points per game (leading the NBA), 10.1 assists per game (3rd best in the NBA), and 10.5 rebounds per game. He is averaging a triple double and only one other person in NBA history has done that. That would be Oscar Robertson in his 1961-62 season in which he notched 41 triple doubles. He also won the MVP that year. And the season where Wilt tallied 31 triple doubles, he also won the MVP.
Westbrook has personified the meaning of putting a team on his back this season. With the surprise departure of Kevin Durant, Westbrook has had to carry this offense, the worst three point shooting team in the league, to a middle of the pack playoff team. On nights where he puts up a triple double, the Thunder are 25-6, as opposed to when he doesn’t, they’re 11-23. His value to his team is unprecedented. Without him they wouldn’t only miss the playoffs, they are one of the worst teams in the NBA.
A few nights ago, Westbrook had a career-high 58 points in a loss to the Portland Trailblazers. That is the second most in the NBA this season, only behind Klay Thompson’s 60 point game. And while his shooting percentage may be of question to some, he is shooting 42% from the field just a few ticks shy of James Harden’s 44%. The numbers shouldn’t scare you away from giving him the award; he has to shoot in order to keep his team competitive. Westbrook has had five games where he has scored 40 or more points in a triple double and has the most 40-point games in the NBA this season. Westbrook can easily score with the best of them on any given night.
Just two seasons ago, Westbrook took the NBA by storm going on a triple double tear to close out the season. I firmly believe that what he did when Durant went down with injury to keep that team competitive was worthy of the MVP. But to his and Oklahoma City fan’s dismay, the Thunder just barely missed the playoffs and Steph Curry won the first of his two MVP’s. If the Thunder were to have made it into the postseason it would have been hard to argue against Westbrook, but I understand how they can’t give the Most Valuable Player award to a player on team that didn’t make the playoffs. It would be outlandish to say that the best player in the league couldn’t help his team not get a lottery pick.
But this season, Westbrook has the Thunder poised to be a playoff team. His numbers alone don’t do him justice. While he does impress with triple doubles and other stats, there are some things you can’t measure in the box score. When watching him play, you witness a spectacle unlike any other. It is ridiculous that he can bring so much energy to the court every single night. How he carves his way to the rim, runs up and down the court at a speed that one wouldn’t even think is possible. Westbrook is the most exciting player in the NBA and it would be a shame to see his marvelous season go unrewarded.
Of course you can always give the MVP to superstars like Kawhi Leonard or LeBron James, but this year it is a clear race between James Harden and Westbrook. And while James Harden’s numbers have been very impressive and I’d say worthy of the MVP any other season, his team is better. Russell Westbrook’s supporting cast is not as talented as the one that James Harden has with the Rockets. Westbrook must put up a triple double every night for his team to compete. With 17 games left in the season, I expect Westbrook to continue to put up magical numbers and run away with the MVP.