Since the beginning of the NBA season, five players have been in the MVP conversation, and while Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Isaiah Thomas have been stellar all year long, the true MVP race is a two-man battle.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden have gone far beyond anyone’s expectations, and are having historic campaigns. Westbrook has completed the seemingly impossible challenge of averaging a triple-double for the whole season, for the first time since Oscar Robertson did it in 1961-62 and just the second time ever.
And Harden’s been right on his tail since October. The Arizona State product dropped an incredible 53-17-16 statline on December 31, which marked the first time a player surpassed 50 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists. It was also the most points scored in a triple-double in NBA history, that is until Westbrook topped it with 57 on the Orlando Magic in March.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 6, 2017
Westbrook also compiled one of the most complete performances in NBA history on Sunday April 9, when he went for 50 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists, all while clinching his record 42nd triple-double. Oh, that’s not enough? He also hit a game-winning buzzer-beater to eliminate the Nuggets from playoff contention.
— NBA (@NBA) April 10, 2017
So, with two deserved candidates, who should take home the hardware? Westbrook has the advantage in points, rebounds, and the historical significance of overtaking Robertson as the single season triple-double holder with 42.
And the Oklahoma City star has the backing of a couple legends as well. “I think it’s Westbrook,” Robertson told ESPN. “That’s what I think. Years ago it was tough to win MVP because it was based on winning championships.”
TNT’s Ernie Johnson also spoke on the matter, saying “I would take Russell (Westbrook). Just seeing what he’s done, something that hasn’t (been) done since ’62 is pretty remarkable.”
Now, yes, Harden’s Rockets are 54-27 compared to the Thunder’s 47-34 mark, and will in turn be a higher seed in the playoffs, which means they will have home court advantage when the two teams face one another, but that doesn’t automatically make The Beard the right choice for MVP.
Westbrook has simply been unguardable and unstoppable, en route to arguably the most prolific season of all-time. And if Oklahoma City didn’t have Westbrook, would they be a playoff team? The answer is a resounding no.
I’ll be the first person to say that Harden has been outstanding this year, but Westbrook has simply been on a whole new level, a level that no one has ever touched, and because of that, he will rightfully take the MVP trophy home to Oklahoma City.
Photo Credit: ESPN.