If history repeats itself, the popular candidate to win the NBA MVP won’t.
Let’s just get to the point: Russell Westbrook is having an otherworldly season. While most expected a great 2016-17 campaign after the loss of Kevin Durant, but if you predicted Brodie would average a triple-double (31.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 10.4 apg as of April 9) and break Oscar Robertson’s record of 41 of those in a season, let me get some Powerball numbers from you. Westbrook is doing what hasn’t been seen in 56 years when the Big O put together a 30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg statline. So, Westbrook should get MVP, right?
Well, Robertson didn’t win one in the 1961-62 season. And sadly, neither will Westbrook.
I have absolutely nothing against Russell Westbrook — if anything, he’s my favorite player in the league. What he’s done this season has been nothing short of amazing, but here’s the thing: voters usually don’t select a player on a team nowhere close to the top of the standings.
Currently the Oklahoma City Thunder have a 46-34 record, winning 57.5 percent of their games. The MVP award has been doled out since 1956 and only five of 61 acquired it without their team winning 60 percent of their games, the last being Moses Malone for a 46-36 Houston Rockets squad in the 1981-82 season. In fact, 39 MVPs were given to guys whose team had the best regular-season record and while I don’t see that happening this season (Steph Curry isn’t winning a third straight) the last person who won the award without his team finishing first or second in the conference was Michael Jordan in 1988 — and the Bulls finished third.
While the Rockets are third in the West, they do boast the third-best record in the league and James Harden has been spectacular, putting up 29.2 ppg, 11.2 apg and 8.1 rpg. The Beard has gotten plenty of love for taking a relatively average Rockets team to a contender status and if his rebounding numbers were a bit higher, Westbrook wouldn’t even be in the conversation for MVP. Kawhi Leonard has posted a great statline himself (25.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.6 apg) while maintaining his rank as the best perimeter defender. With the San Antonio Spurs second in the West, I wouldn’t be too surprised if he got the MVP. Same for LeBron James (26.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 8.7 apg).
You know what’s funny? I didn’t think Westbrook deserved it early on strictly for the record. In my opinion, a great player should be able to push his team past the threshold of the 10th-best record in the NBA. I mean, stats are great but wins matter more in the annals of fans and voters. Westbrook is eschewing tradition in a major way and is deserving of the MVP, but as history has shown, you’re more likely to see James or Leonard hoisting the trophy.
Or maybe Harden will win to break the status quo slightly. We’ll find out soon enough.