On March 27, the Oklahoma City Thunder were down by 13 points against the Dallas Mavericks, with just above three minutes left in the game. It was over, right?
Russell Westbrook didn’t think so. In the final three minutes, Westbrook scored 12 out of his team’s final 14 points, icing the comeback with a game-winning jumper. Westbrook finished with an impressive stat line: 37 points, 10 assists, and 13 rebounds.
The following night Westbrook did it again. Oklahoma City was down 21 points in the second quarter and 14 points by the middle of the fourth quarter. Westbrook would not quit. He rebounded, assisted, and scored non-stop in the last six minutes of the game cutting the lead to 4 points with under 20 seconds left in the game.
What happened next was an MVP-caliber sequence and the epitome of Westbrook’s season. Westbrook drove into the lane and made a layup cutting the lead to 2. Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic made one free throw but missed the second one. Westbrook grabbed the rebound, his team trailing by three late and were in desperate need of a basket. 11 seconds, 10, 9, Westbrook sprinted down the court. Hesitated for a second and then shot a contested fade away three-pointer. Bang. Overtime! Oklahoma City prevailed to win in overtime completing the incredible comeback. Russell Westbrook finished with a godly performance: 57 points, 11 assists and 13 rebounds, the most points ever scored by a player who also had a triple-double in the same game.
These are the type of games Russell Westbrook has on a regular basis. He is on pace to be the first person in more than 50 years to average a triple-double. And yet, the man is still being questioned and is in danger of losing the MVP award to James Harden.
James Harden is also having an outstanding year, logging 29 pts, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists per game. Both players are having absolutely incredible years. Both are well deserving of the MVP award. But the most valuable player can only go to one player and Russell Westbrook has simply been the most valuable player this year.
Besides averaging a triple-double, Westbrook has lead the NBA in scoring, averaging the most points per game by any player. He also leads the NBA in total efficiency, a statistic that ranks a player using points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers and shot attempts. Westbrook is 11th in the league in rebounds per game, which is extremely impressive considering he is the only guard who ranks in the top 20 in rebounding.
James Harden’s support for the MVP lies in his team’s record. Houston is currently in third place in the West, while the Thunder are sixth. Harden’s team has nine more wins than Westbrook’s; as a result, the MVP award may be given to James Harden and not Russell Westbrook. However, the “most valuable player” award should not necessarily be given to a player who is on the best team. If that were the case, then Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant should be given the MVP as they both average the most points per game for the Warriors, who have the best record in the NBA. Instead, the MVP award given out to the player who is most valuable to his team.
Russell Westbrook leads the Thunder in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game. He is also doing everything James Harden is doing, with less of a supporting cast. James Harden has been playing alongside Eric Gordon, who is second in the NBA in 3-pointers made per game, former Sixth man of the Year, Louis Williams, and three-point specialist Ryan Anderson. Westbrook, on the other hand, has gotten little to no help from his teammates. An unproven Victor Oladipo has been inconsistent and Enes Kanter has been dealing with a forearm injury. Westbrook is single handily carrying his team…
Unquestionably, Harden and Westbrook are performing at unprecedented levels. As the 2016-2017 season winds down, however, Westbrook has taken his team on his back and has proven himself to be the most valuable player this year, indisputably greater than James Harden.
Roey Herzfeld is a sophmore at the Berman Hebrew Academy, where he plays on the school baseball team . He attends Ohev Shalom - The National Synagogue in Washington, D.C.