Russell Westbrook was not my MVP, James Harden was. As I watched Russ shoot his team out of game five, I did not regret my decision at all.
Westbrook has had a polarizing season from my perspective. When you look at his numbers; averaging a triple-double while leading the league in scoring, carrying his team to 45 wins, etc., it is pretty remarkable to be honest. Last night I had to double-take when I saw that Russ had 47 points because of how nonchalant it was.
In that aspect, Westbrook’s season has been nothing short of amazing. Will there ever be another player like Russ? In this day-and-age where superstars only play 70 games, probably not. But yet, despite all the acrobatics, 35-foot buzzer-beaters and the “put the team on your back” moments Russ has had this season, I’m not nearly as enthusiastic as most when it comes to Westbrook as an MVP candidate.
It’s hard to put my finger on why, because when watching this series it was pretty clear that Westbrook had more ‘MVP’ moments.
I think, as someone who appreciates the beauty of team basketball, it’s hard to latch onto a player who tries to win every playoff series, every game and every possession by himself. History is on my side too. Allen Iverson is really the only player to do serious damage in the postseason while playing ‘hero-ball.’
I also have grown tired of people saying that Russ has no help. Yes, he doesn’t have the best supporting cast in the league, but Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams and even players like Andre Roberson and Alex Abrines are decent to say the least.
If Russ really made an effort to make the other players on his team better, as opposed to trying to do it all himself, we wouldn’t see players like Adams only average 11 points per game. Many people believe that the Thunder struggle despite the fact that they have Westbrook. In my opinion he is the reason they struggle.
If you’ve ever played pickup basketball, Westbrook is the guy who tries to play hero ball and take over the game. Not only does he hurt your team’s offensive effectiveness, but he will negatively affect every player as well. It’s hard to expect a guy, who’s been standing in the corner for 10 straight possessions, to make a play when he finally gets the ball.
Yes, Russ is obviously a better player than that ball-hog at the gym, but if Westbrook put in the work to get everyone on his team involved, it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw a player like Victor Oladipo have a 30 point game at least once in awhile.
It’s no coincidence that multiple players on the Rockets outperformed their expectations, while everyone on OKC did the opposite. When u play in a offense that is so reliant on one player, it is impossible for anyone to have a break-out game.
This was the differentiating factor when it came to looking at the more worthy MVP candidate. A lot of Westbrook’s individual achievements were at the expense of his teammates.
Did Russ average a triple double because he is that much better than everyone else? Or is he just the only player to have the balls to pull off a season like this?
His season was a combination of a few things.
Firstly, Russ’s will-power and constant effort, which in my opinion was his strongest case for MVP. He played at a level we’ve never seen before and probably will never see again. Kevin Durant leaving certainly helped fuel the fire too.
Additionally, Westbrook’s supporting cast is decent, but no one on the Thunder excel with the ball in their hands, nor would have the courage to fight with Westbrook over shot selection.
Also, everyone in the OKC organization has accepted the fact that this year would be dedicated towards Russ. Could he average a triple-double? Could he lead the league in points? Could he bring OKC past the first round of the playoffs? How far could he drag this team?
This article might seem like it’s dedicated to bashing Westbrook, but that’s not my intention. His season will go down in the record books, and rightfully so. He is going to win the MVP, and its impossible to get mad at that decision.
Do I think that if Harden was thrown into Westbrook’s situation he would have the same success? Honestly, no. But I believe Westbrook’s season was a result of a unique experiment: “How much could one man possibly accomplish by himself in an NBA season?”