Posted on April 12, 2018, by Travis Pulver
This one is a little different than last year’s, but the accomplishment is still noteworthy. With six points, 20 rebounds, and 19 assists against the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has done the impossible. With last night’s stat line, Westbrook averaged 25.4 points, 10.3 assists, and 10.1 rebounds a game this season.
When he did it last season, he joined Oscar Robertson as the only two to ever average a triple-double over the course of the season. But after doing it again this season, he has succeeded in breaking into uncharted territory.
”I’m very, very thankful and blessed, man, to go out and compete,” Westbrook said after the game (NBA.com). ”Like I’ve said many, many times, I don’t take this game for granted. I don’t take going out on the floor and competing for granted.”
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No player has done it twice. So, with the gravity of the accomplishment in mind, shouldn’t he be in consideration for the MVP this season? Doing it last year earned him the award. It only makes sense that it would this season as well.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Houston Rockets point guard James Harden has been the heavy favorite for much of the season and still is. As of February 22, BetOnline (via Oddsshark) had Harden as the favorite (-290; 17:50) followed by LeBron James (+275; 11:4) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (+1400; 14:1).
Westbrook was a lot further down the list (2200; 22:1).
Of course, that was long before it became clear he had a shot at averaging a triple-double again this season. But this time, the accomplishment is going to be a little tainted in the eyes of some. The triple-double appeared to come organically last season. But this time, there was some stat padding involved.
He barely even tried to score any points against the Grizzlies. He was clearly gunning for rebounds. At the end of the first half, he already had 11 (he needed 16) along with 12 assists and just a single point. He only took two shots.
Westbrook addressed this concern with reporters on Wednesday (NBA.com):
“A lot of people make jokes about stat padding rebounds,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “If people could get 20 rebounds every night, they would. If people could get [expletive] 15 rebounds, they would.”
He’s got a point, but some voters are likely going to hold it against him anyway. It’s not like he hurt the team by not shooting as much. By concentrating on rebounds, the door opened for Paul George (40 points) and Steven Adams (24 points) to have big nights.
What’s wrong with that? Under different circumstances, people would just say he was trying to be a better teammate. While the Thunder had already secured a spot in the playoffs, they still needed to win to secure a higher seed.
While the stakes weren’t high, there were stakes in the game. But since they were playing one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, the team didn’t need Westbrook to score in order to win.
So— does he have a chance at winning MVP again?
While he does deserve to be in the conversation again, he doesn’t deserve to win. It was more impressive last season because he didn’t have any real help on the roster. This season he does—Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
This year there is just no denying what James Harden has done with the Rockets. If he doesn’t win it all, the NBA-loving free world will be shocked, to say the least.