The return of Russell Westbrook has caused a stir among the Okahoma City Thunder faithful. The concern is that Westbrook’s return could hamper Kevin Durant’s chances of winning the MVP this year.
And while that may in fact be truth, or potentially true, it’s important that we first understand how the NBA chooses its MVP.
The MVP is selected by a panel of 125 votes, which is composed of 3 media members from each NBA City, and the remaining votes are a selection of national media members.
There are such specific criteria for the MVP, but it is usually based on the outstanding individual performance of a player (stats) and the success of his team during the regular season (win-loss record). The combination of these factors will show the players’ overall value to his team, hence the title MVP.
The playoffs and finals result do not matter in the selection process.
We all know Durant is a scoring machine, but it could be said that Westbrook’s scorer mentality is a hindrance to KD. Or is it? Durant’s numbers this season have been nothing short of being sensational. After 58 games, his tagline currently reads: 31.5ppg, 7.7rpg, 5.6apg, 0.8bpg and 1.5spg. He’s posting career highs in scoring, assists and steals.
Without Westbrook, Durant posted career numbers of 35ppg, 7.5rpg and 6.3apg, and the Thunder went 20-7. With Westrbrook, Durant’s stats are expected to drop, but not much. Before Westbrook’s injury, Durant’s numbers were already sensational. The NBA regular season is about 70% complete, so there is not much time for King James, Lamarcus Aldridge or Paul George to overtake Durant in the statistics race. With the scoring title half inside his bag, Durant will still be your MVP based on stats because he was already astronomically ahead, even before Westbrook was hurt.
Judgement? KD’s numbers are expected to drop, but not much. The season’s almost over, and he’s already way in front in the stats race. The scoring title could be the icing on the cake.
Another factor in determining the MVP is the team’s regular season success. The three consecutive losses suffered by the Thunder when Russell Westrbook returned should not be a reason to press the panic button… at least not yet. The Thunder are still sitting at the top of the NBA Western Conference with their 45-15 record. It should be a cause for concern though, because they’ve just managed a mediocre 2-3 in their last five games.
But to say that Russell Westrbook is doing damage to Kevin Durant’s MVP hopes because the team lost its first three games when Russ returned is totally absurd. And it wasn’t totally Westbrook’s fault. He had good numbers in those games, but let’s face it, no matter how long you’ve been with the team, when you just come back from injury after quite some time, chances are there will still be chemistry problems to adjust. That could be the case with OKC. Losing three straight is still acceptable…as of now and based on that reasoning.
The Thunder was 21-4 this season before Russell Westbrook was injured. They were dominant when he was healthy. The main question here with the Thunder is whether they peaked too early. That’s what’s dangerous. That would be disastrous, but that remains to be seen. We might need to see how they play the next 10 games to decide on that.
Judgement? The Thunder are still on top of the Western Conference, although the gap has been narrowed. They started 5-5 when Russ was injured. They are 6-4 in their last 10. They are technically in a minor slump, but it’s not necessarily because of Russell Westbrook.
Comparing all the stats of the leading MVP candidates would take a long time. So maybe let’s just use the PER designed by John Hollinger of ESPN (Player Efficiency Ratio). In layman’s terms, it adds up all the positive stats and deducts the negative stats to get a player’s efficiency. So is the latest PER for the top MVP candidates:
Kevin Durant: 30.66
LeBron James: 29.48
LaMarcus Aldridge: 22.49
Paul George: 21.07
What does this tell us? The MVP race has been reduced to a two-man battle between Kevin Durant and the reigning MVP Lebron James.
King James has had another sensational season. But because he’s done this year after year, what is spectacular for an ordinary player has become normal for the King. We’ve almost forgotten how great LeBron has been simply because he’s been like this for the past five years or so. But plain and simple, what LeBron has done is pretty spectacular. Achieving greatness is one thing, sustaining it is another. It could be the path to become a legend or even the greatest ever. King James has been MVP 4 times in the last 5 years, but this one could backfire against him. Perhaps those who are voting have had “enough” of writing his name on their ballots. It’s become too mechanical to write the same name for 5 years. Thank goodness Derrick Rose broke the monotony or else James would have been MVP for 5 straight years.
Kevin Durant has been consistently advertised by the media to be the early season MVP and the mid-season MVP. It’s also the media who votes for the MVP. Kevin Durant is obviously the sentimental favorite. He will most likely be the scoring champion and win the race in stats. OKC will top the Western Conference and may or may not reach the NBA Finals. Miami still looks like the favorite to three-peat, but the playoffs don’t matter in the MVP voting.
Kevin Durant will be the new MVP. If not, it will not be because of Russell Westbrook, but because of LeBron James. If KD wants to beat LeBron and Miami in the finals, he’ll surely need Russell Westbrook to do that.
Editor’s note: This was a guess post from Justin Becker of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com. You can follow him on twitter at @NBAFantasyInfo, and for more information on the NBA visit Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues – your online source for anything about fantasy basketball. For more NBA Basketball News visit Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues, your No. 1 source for everything fantasy basketball.