Despite criticism from Mavs owner Mark Cuban, Russell Westbrook is having a historical NBA season en route to the MVP award.
Almost a year ago, Mark Cuban made a ludicrous statement that Russell Westbrook was not a superstar. By the end of that night, the Oklahoma City Thunder booted the Dallas Mavericks out of the playoffs behind 36 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists from Westbrook.
Cuban revisited this sentiment in December of 2016 and said he still doesn’t think Westbrook is a superstar. Despite admitting that Westbrook’s numbers were eye-popping, Cuban reiterated that superstars lead mediocre rosters to 50 regular season wins and series wins in the postseason.
He recently plunged deeper into the abyss when asked about Westbrook’s contention for the MVP award this year. Cuban stated that it was a toss-up between Houston Rockets superstar James Harden and Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James. Cuban responded “he’s not,” when asked about Russ’ position in the race.
Sorry to break it to you Mark, but by definition, Westbrook has been the most valuable player to his team all year.
After Kevin Durant ran to Golden State for an easier chance at winning a championship, Westbrook was left to shoulder the load for the Thunder. Many doubted his ability to carry this team into playoff contention and few saw an all-time historic season coming. The common consensus was that the Thunder would be in a dog fight to pull out the eighth seed in the west.
Fast-forward to the present, and Russell is averaging 31.7 points per game, 10.4 assists and 10.5 rebounds. Friendly reminder, he is listed at 6-foot-3 but manages to out rebound starting big men on a nightly basis.
He’s been on a triple-double tear incomparable to anything we’ve seen recently, recording 34 to date. He is closing in on Oscar Robertson’s single season record of 41. Barring an inexplicable drop off in productivity, he’ll finish the season averaging a triple-double.
Some will argue that Oscar Robertson was in a similar situation and did not win the MVP. It was wrong then for the Big O not to win the award, and it would be asinine now if Russell Westbrook doesn’t win this year.
The race is admittedly as close as it could possibly be. Harden has been balling out of control, posting 29 points per game, 11 assists and seven rebounds. His season is historic in its own right, as only the Big O have posted similar numbers. Harden’s team is ahead of OKC, sitting third in the playoff race and will remain that way.
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However, Harden’s supporting cast is better suited for his game compared to Westbrook. “The Beard” has seven teammates averaging at least nine points per game, five of them in double figures. Four of Westbrook’s supporting cast average nine points or better and only three are in double figures. This demonstrates how remarkable his feat has been.
Reigning two time MVP, Stephen Curry chimed in the other day, in support of Harden to win the award this year. Russ’ response, “I don’t care. It don’t matter what he says. Who is he?”
Westbrook’s leadership and dominating court presence is the single-handed reason this team is overachieving. He never complained publicly about the players around him. He never sought to join forces with superstars for championships. All Westbrook has done in the face of adversity is elevate his play, making it easy to see why someone like Michael Jordan heaped high praises on him.
Will it equate to winning a championship this season? Most likely not due to the superior talented teams, but it is refreshing to see competitive spirit. Westbrook provides the same amount of fight and non stop energy for every game.
In all fairness, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James are making late season pushes. Kawhi is averaging 26.4 points per game, 6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals. Leonard is the only one in the race that consistently guards the best player on the opposing team night in, night out. Using the rule of best player on the best team would lead to Kawhi being MVP.
Realistically, LeBron James is the best player in the league and most will agree he could win the MVP award every year. Remarkably, the man has been in the NBA finals every season since 2010-11. This year he’s having one of his best seasons, posting 26 points per game, 8.8 assists and 8.4 rebounds. The Cavs currently sit first place in the east behind James career highs in rebounds and assists.
Nevertheless, Westbrook is pulling the OKC Thunder train into the playoffs. The team is currently 39-29 with 14 games left. Cuban’s magic number of 50 wins is attainable, although it is a strong possibility the team falls short. However, as long as the Thunder finish at least in the sixth spot in the west, Russell Westbrook should be properly rewarded with the Most Valuable Player award. It is almost impossible to argue against averaging a triple double in the modern NBA.