Before the season started, NBA fans across the world had doubts about Westbrook’s capacity to lead the Thunder without star Kevin Durant. Now, 66 games through the season, all doubts have been put aside. The Thunder currently sit at the 6th seed in the Western Conference, and Westbrook himself at the top of MVP candidacy.
Oscar Roberson once made history in the NBA, averaging a triple-double for the season back in 1961-1962. Still the only person to ever do so, his record is up for grabs with Westbrook on a tear this season. With fifteen games left, Westbrook currently averages a triple-double, with: 31.9 points, 10.1 assists, and 10.5 rebounds per game. On Saturday afternoon, OKC beat the Utah Jazz and Russell recorded his 32nd triple-double of the season. With this triple-double, he moved past Wilt Chamberlain in career triple-doubles who had 31 over fourteen seasons.
The fancy games and stats aren’t necessarily what makes the 9-year veteran’s case for MVP. Once Kevin Durant left OKC, the front office didn’t make too many acquisitions to fill the void. One big move they made was trading Ibaka to the Magic in exchange for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo. Sabonis is young but shows sign of developing into a nice forward down the road. Oladipo has been arguably the second best player on the Thunder this season, averaging 16.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
All this to say, that compared to the other players swirling in MVP talks, Westbrook doesn’t have much help. The help he does have, he makes better. To explain even further, here’s averages of his fellow starters before and after Russell ran the offense (as opposed to with KD):
|Player:||PPG before:||PPG after:||RPG before:||RPG after:|
I know everyone is tired of my charts, but statistics simply do not lie. Westbrook has not improved alone, and there’s a consistent trend. Furthermore, in terms of his triple-doubles, when he records one the Thunder are 26-6 and 11-23 when he doesn’t. I found a tweet that in my opinion, put it best.
Even if Russell doesn’t end up receiving a triple double, he gets all the cookies in my opinion. Another factor to take in account is missing pieces. Last season: Waiters, KD, and Ibaka made up for just under half the team’s points per game (50.6 out of 110.3). In exchange for losing those three, Westbrook received Sabonis and Oladipo. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of both, but they’re not providing half the teams scoring per game. Without half his teams scoring, this man has STILL managed to (literally) drag them to the playoffs. They may finish as the 5th overall seed by the end, should Westbrook finish as he started.
Taking all this into account, I can’t see anyone taking the MVP award over the Thunder guard. Talks have swirled mostly around him, Kawhi, and Harden. No offense to the other two, but they have much more to work with than our friend in Oklahoma. There is no other option for the award, especially should he finish with a triple-double average on the season.
All stats provided by ESPN.