Westbrook for MVP
*Photo via USA Today
If Russell Westbrook was on just about any other team in the NBA, he would be the clear-cut favorite for the MVP this year. Unfortunately, when many people think about the OKC Thunder, they think of it as “Kevin Durant's Team”. And since Durant is out for the season, many just write the Thunder off and any single player performance that is coming out of OKC.
Lets look at the facts first: One of the main reasons Stephen Curry is the favorite to win the MVP this year is because he is the 'highest scoring/best player on the highest scoring/best team'. But if we are putting such a value on scoring, shouldn't we give the MVP to the scoring leader in the NBA? Because that person isn't Stephen Curry, it's Russell Westbrook. Westbrook averages 27.6 PPG, Steven Curry averages 23.7 PPG. Westbrook is number one in that category in the entire NBA, Curry is only sixth.
Is the MVP more than just the scoring leader? Only one time since 2001 has the scoring leader in points-per-game also won the MVP (Kevin Durant, 2013-2014). So let's look at another offensive stat, assists. Westbrook averages 8.6 per game, Curry averages 7.8. How about rebounds? Westbrook averages 7.2 per game, Curry averages 4.2. Westbrook has had a total of 113 offensive rebounds, Curry has had 49. And on defense, Westbrook has had 311, Curry only 256. Even though Westbrook has played in 13 less games then Curry, he still has had 119 more rebounds than him. In fact, Westbrook leads all point guards in rebounds, and the man is only six feet and three inches tall.
And these aren't cheap rebounds Westbrook is getting physical, he is jumping up there, putting his body on the line every play, to get those rebounds. That's the reason why Westbrook has 9 more triple doubles than Curry (Westbrook - 9, Curry - 0). Unlike Curry, Westbrook has that physical game, and that translates into Westbrook being able to can score from anywhere. If you don't play him tight, he will start shooting 3-pointers, or if you give him the chance, he would love to run up a layup on a big guy to draw that foul. Westbrook has been an all-around player, without Kevin Durant for most of the year. If the roles where switched, Curry playing in OKC, and Curry being the only dominate offensive player on the team, would he still have the same stats? Maybe. Would Curry be able to do what Westbrook did and carry the players and fans of Oklahoma City when Kevin Durant went down? Maybe not.
Westbrook has brought the limping Thunder to a 37-22 record in games he was playing. That is only nine more losses than the Warriors has had all year. A Warriors team that hasn't been bit by the injury bug nearly as much as the Thunder. So yes, Stephen Curry didn't have to miss 15 games because of injury like Westbrook; Curry has only sat out two games this year. And Curry has a way better 3-point percentage than Westbrook. But other than the 13 game difference because of injury, and the 3-point percentage....how is Curry any better than Westbrook? Westbrook leads Curry in all of the three big statistical categories of PPG, rebounds and assists. Unlike Curry, Westbrook has taken over as the heart and soul of his team. Westbrook is not also just a scoring machine, he is also a very physical player that will sacrifice his body to get those precious rebounds and get dirty in the paint.
But, being the highest scoring player on the highest scoring team means more than all those stats to some people. And that's not the only reason though that Westbrook isn't the clear cut favorite; it's because Kevin Durant's shadow is too big. If Westbrook was on just about any other team, putting up these amazing stats, then there wouldn't even be an MVP discussion.
*all stats courtesy of ESPN.com