With just 14 contests remaining this regular season, it’s already been a banner year for the former UCLA standout. Entering Friday evening, Westbrook ranked first in the NBA in scoring (31.7 ppg), 11th in rebounds (10.5 rpg) and third in assists (10.4 apg). He also connected with Victor Oladipo on what will likely go down as the best pass of the season in that aforementioned win at Toronto.
Additionally, Westbrook has started 68 of a possible 68 Oklahoma City Thunder contests this season and currently ranks 18th in the NBA in minutes per game at 34.8.
So boasting a resume that looks like that, why do the current offshore NBA Most Valuable Player odds look like this:
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: Even
James Harden, Houston Rockets: Even
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs: 5/1
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers: 10/1
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics: 10/1
Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors: 40/1
John Wall, Washington Wizards: 50/1
Perhaps it has something to do with the following question: How valuable can you truly be if your team isn’t winning?
Granted, Oklahoma City has certainly been anything but a doormat this season. But at 39-29 in the middle of March, the Thunder currently rank sixth in the Western Conference and tied for ninth overall in the NBA in terms of winning percentage.
And should this current pace continue, it’s preciously why Westbrook may find himself without the MVP hardware some feel he so definitely deserves come summertime.
Take a look at every NBA MVP winner of the current millennium and try and deduce what they all have in common:
2015-2016: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors (73-9)
2014-2015: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors (67-15)
2013-2014: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23)
2012-2013: LeBron James, Miami Heat (66-16)
*2011-2012: LeBron James, Miami Heat (46-20)
2010-2011: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (62-20)
2009-2010: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21)
2008-2009: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16)
2007-2008: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (57-25)
2006-2007: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (67-15)
2005-2006: Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns (54-28)
2004-2005: Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns (62-20)
2003-2004: Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves (58-24)
2002-2003: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (60-22)
2001-2002: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (58-24)
2000-2001: Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers (56-26)
*Regular season shortened due to labor dispute.
The answer is that each of those above listed MVP’s finished the regular season having guided their respective organizations to a winning percentage of 65.8 percent or higher.
As of the current moment, Westbrook and the Thunder find themselves on pace to conclude the current campaign with an overall record of 47-35 (.573), which would fall seven wins short of the worst regular season winning percentage for an NBA MVP this millennium (Steve Nash in 2005-2006).
Further, of the 16 NBA seasons played this millennium, the MVP’s team has finished first in its respective conference 12 times, second place three times and third place just once. At the moment, Westbrook and the Thunder reside in sixth place in the Western Conference.
And of the 16 NBA seasons played this millennium, the MVP’s team has finished with the best record in the league nine times, second-best record four times, fourth-best record twice and fifth-best record once. At the moment, Westbrook and the Thunder own the ninth-best record in the NBA.
Again, we find ourselves at the crossroads of the most important question that will be put to MVP voters in the very near future: Do you vote for Westbrook and the stats or Houston’s James Harden and the wins?
If Westbrook was producing the exact same box scores, but played for the Brooklyn Nets (currently 13-54), would he be a serious MVP candidate?
On the other hand, can a player who averages a triple-double over the course of an entire NBA season while guiding his team to the playoffs in the Western Conference be snubbed of the game’s top individual prize?
That’s exactly what makes this year’s Most Valuable Player race so compelling. Well, that and the fact that we may encounter a scenario where last year’s MVP winner Steph Curry, who became the first player in league history to win the award unanimously, may fail to receive a single MVP vote the following season.
Welcome to the NBA in spring.