Russell Westbrook should not win the 2016-2017 NBA Most valuable player award.
It’s clear I’m taking the road much less traveled here, because Westbrook’s numbers this season are astronomically better than anything we’ve seen in a number of years. In fact, the NBA probably hasn’t seen this much statistical domination since Oscar Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists during the 1961-1962 season. But you know what they say, you live by the statistic, you die by the statistic, so here are just a few reasons why Westbrook’s eye-gawking numbers, aren’t enough to convince me he’s the best player in the league.
The first statistic is what many nay-sayers are hanging their hats on, the fact that the Oklahoma City Thunder are sixth in the Western Conference playoff standings and cannot move any higher in the final few games. This is critical because Bleacher Report cites only twice since 1985 when a player was awarded the MVP and did not play for one of the top two teams in either conference. In addition, each of those players’ teams finished third in the conference, still three whole spots higher than Westbrook’s Thunder. In Westbrook’s defense, none of the candidates involved in those MVP races averaged a triple-double, but voters tend to play to the trends.
Another thing to be considered in this argument is how often Westbrook has the ball in his hands. Westbrook checks out with a 42 percent usage rate this season, meaning while he is on the court, he controls the ball nearly half the time. His 42 percent is also 3.3 percent higher than anyone else in NBA history. If that doesn’t define a ball hog, I’m not sure what does.
This stat might have lesser meaning if Westbrook took better care of the ball, unfortunately he is second in the league in turnovers at 5.42 per game. And even his impressive 10.3 assists per game can’t save his assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.9, which ranks 98th in the league.
On the surface, Russell Westbrook earns the NBA MVP in a landslide and no one raises a hand in objection. But when you take a closer, educated look, something I hope voters will do before casting a vote, Westbrook isn’t the clear-cut favorite everyone is advocating for.
An award as prestigious the most valuable player should encompass all aspects of player’s contributions to his team, his teammates and the league as a whole. Although the 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game will go down as one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history, the stat-hunting mindset of Westbrook and the rest of his team belittles the meaning of the award, and should be given to a player that embodies everything it stands for, through character, ability and value.
If you take each of the candidates away from their current team, where does that leave that team? Without Westbrook I find it hard to see them doing much worse than sixth in the Western Conference. Then again I don’t get to vote, yet.