Russell Westbrook: The 2016-17 MVP

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The MVP debate is over.  The 2016-17 NBA season MVP is Oklahoma City’s guard, Russell Westbrook. He beat James Harden of Houston and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio to win it.

100 journalists and the fans all got to vote. Westbrook took the award with 69 first place votes (worth 10 points each), 19 second place votes (7 points each) and  13 third place votes (5 points each) for a total of 888 points. Harden with 22 first place votes, 69 second place and  10 third place votes (733 points).  Leonard had 9 first place, 9 second place, 52 third place, 28 fourth place (3 points each) and 3 fifth place votes (1 point each) for 500 points.

The top 4 for the MVP.
Leonard, Westbrook, Harden and James

Despite his stellar season, Leonard was not going to be in the discussion for the award, as he lacked the offensive numbers. Even though he was a more efficient shooter and brilliant defender. Westbrook who broke the triple double record with 42, and averaged a triple double, was the deserving candidate. He finished the season averaging a triple double of 31.6 points per game (ppg), 10.7 rebounds per game (rbg) and 10.4 assists a game (apg). Harden deserves credit, and if it were any other season, he would have won the MVP award. He racked up an astonishing 29.1 ppg, 8.1 rbg and 11.2 apg game, running the entire offense of Houston through him. He scored or assisted 56.6 points a game, setting a NBA record.

Both stars had a major player leave their team at the start of the season. Durant left OKC for the Warriors (and eventually won the championship). Dwight Howard left the Rockets to sign with a lacklustre season with Atlanta. Both also had their faults, such as high turnovers or minimalistic defence. Both went for attack is the best form of defence.

Westbrook, was more valuable to his team, than Harden was to his. The Thunder lost Serge Ibaka and Durant (who could produce 40-45 points a game between them on average) and Dion Waiters, a reliable bench scorer for them. Without them, they only had Enes Kanter, Steve Adams and Victor Oladipio as players who could guarantee consistent point tallies. This meant that Westbrook had to single handedly shoulder the brunt of scoring and ball passing. Kanter and Adams helped more on defensive duties and rebounding. This explains why the Thunder were the best rebounding team and lacked assists. Sometimes, 2/3rds of the team assists were credited to Westbrook.

Westbrook was a clutch performer in the NBA.

The dynamic guard was also a clutch player. He hit 5 game winners and he also scored 10 points in the 4th quarter a game, marginally ahead of the Celtic’s Mr 4th Quarter, Isaiah Thomas. Westbrook hit 10 game winners. These all helped Oklahoma move from not a 7th or 8th seed but a respectable 6th seed, against the odds. Only once he scored less than 9 points, had fewer than 4 assists four times, and fewer than 4 rebounds 4 times.

He would be giving his all for the Thunder, day in and day out. He did not sit out much either, playing 81 games out of 82 and his sole rest game was the 2nd last game of the season. His teammates and Big O, Oscar Robertson (the only other to average a triple double in a season) backed him for the MVP. He has delivered and rightly earned his award, being the most valuable for his team. Without him, the Thunder might be staring at the draft lottery instead of the playoffs.

Concluding the regular season, Oscar Roberston also endorsed Westbrook for the MVP.

Harden and Leonard, in other seasons would have been MVPs for their respective performances. They just happened to put in this performance when Westbrook went for Beast mode.

Westbrook has led the Thunder and has won the top individual award of the season. Now the Thunder front office have to bring in reinforcements to help reestablish themselves as title contenders.

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