After an extraordinary regular season, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder have been eliminated from the playoffs. The Thunder was bumped in the first round of the NBA playoffs by the Houston Rockets. Russell was only able to lead his team to one victory in the series. His stats, like in the regular season, were incredible. He managed to average a triple double with 37.4 points, 10.8 assists, and 11.8 rebounds per game. Even with these stats, Westbrook will be irrelevant in NBA until the NBA Awards Show rolls around in June. The show will finally answer THE question. Does Russell Westbrook’s incredible statistical season make him worthy of an MVP even if his team was bounced off the first round of the place?
The four top candidates are LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook. These four players have shown that they are MVP material by being the leaders of their teams. Without them, their teams would not be anywhere as successful as they currently are.
Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James fall into the same category. Their teams finished second in their respective conferences. Statistically, they are superior to their teammates. LeBron James leads his team in both points and assists. Hence, he is the playmaker for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is either scoring the points or is making the passes that lead to points. Kawhi leads his team in points per game and continues to distinguish himself as one of the best defenders in the league. His defense and ability to score are huge reason why the Spurs have been successful this year.
LeBron James finishes third and Kawhi Leonard finishes fourth. They do not win the MVP because of their supporting casts. LeBron has Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and a strong bench. The Spurs follow suit. They have Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge in the post, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as veteran leaders, and strong 3-point shooting. The Cavaliers and Spurs are strong overall teams. The overall environments make stars like Kawhi and LeBron flourish with ease.
The story for James Harden and Russell Westbrook are different than that for LeBron and Kawhi. James Harden and the Rockets lost Dwight Howard to free agency. The Thunder lost Kevin Durant in the same way. Most teams that lose star players like Durant and Howard collapse the following season. The Thunder and Rockets did not. They both managed to surpass their expectations. Why? Because of their star players. James Harden is the league leader in assists and second in points per game. He is making his shots and making the right passes for his team to win. His team is not even missing Dwight Howard as they finished third in the tough Western Conference. Russell Westbrook lost the 2014 NBA MVP and decided to take advantage of it. He is the first player to average a triple double since Oscar Robertson. Before Kevin Durant left, the Thunder already lacked talent. They have Steven Adams and Taj Gibson who can be good at times, but the rest of the teams are simply role players. The Thunder finished seventh in the Western Conference and lost to the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs.
Russell Westbrook is the MVP
Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double and did not win the MVP because of Wilt Chamberlin and Bill Russell were just dominating the league in the 1970s. Their stats in points and rebound were just extraordinary and their teams were winning championships. Westbrook does not have a team. He literally carried the Thunder through this season and into the playoffs. Russell almost had two 50-point games in the five games of the playoff series and average a triple double. Yet his team only managed to win one game in the series. He took a high quantity of shots and his shooting percentage was only .388 % from the field, but it was only because his team did not show up. They were missing free throws and key shots. Westbrook would go to the bench and his team would let leads slip away. Good teams do not do this. The Spurs, Rockets, and Cavaliers do not completely fall apart whenever their star players head to the bench. Russell Westbrook deserves the MVP and deserves a better team around him.