An NBA season is not a triple-double-getting contest. Yesterday, Albert Burneko argued that the discussion about who deserves the NBA Most Valuable Player award has lately gone off track—that Russell Westbrook, averaging a triple-double for the Oklahoma City Thunder, has been so thoroughly and overwhelmingly spectacular this season that the spectacular has gotten familiar.
Misguided basketbloggers, Burneko wrote, have therefore made the mistake of looking for someone else to be the true MVP, some steady contributor hiding in plain sight, like Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs. Yet there really is much more to NBA success than statistical stunts like the triple-doubles, or even the scoring crown, which Westbrook is also in position to claim.
What if Westbrook’s gaudy numbers are, in fact, distracting us from appreciating someone’s fundamental accomplishments? Set aside the hype and compare these two players:
Player A: 26.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists
Player B: 25.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 7.8 assists
Player A is Leonard, San Antonio’s do-everything hero, whose comprehensive, balanced excellence excited the basketblogging world over the weekend.
But look at Player B: a bit less of a scorer, but much more of an all-around force. His numbers for the year are unquestionably ahead of Leonard’s. You could make a case that this is a true MVP-caliber performance.
Player B is Russell Westbrook if he put up a 0 - 0 - 0 the rest of the way.
Repeat: If Russell Westbrook were to play in all his remaining 18 games of the season while somehow never scoring another point, never grabbing another rebound, and never dishing another assist, his 2016-17 stat line would work out to 25.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 7.8 assists.
(Last year, LeBron James put up 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists.)
Russell Westbrook is the goddamn MVP.