Russell Westbrook was named the 2016-2017 NBA Most Valuable Player this past weekend. He received 69 1st place votes, which was 47 more than Runner-up James Harden, 60 more than the most complete 2 way player in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard, and 68 more than the King…which is absolute insanity because Russell Westbrook is NOT the most valuable NBA player.
First off, let me give credit where credit is due: Russ had a historic season, becoming the 1st player since Oscar Robertson in the 1970’s to average a triple double, while also seeming to hit big shot after big shot and playing with a passion every night that is unseen in today’s NBA. For that Russell, I congratulate you, as many players seem to take games off here and there, whereas you won’t even take a possession off in a game you’re winning by 30 points.
But c’mon voters, is Russ really the most valuable player in the NBA?
The answer is no.
Believe me, I fully understand the arguments for him. Without him, the Thunder are a Lottery team. Their roster is pretty barren and lacks any sort of depth. Victor Oladipo was aquired to be a lethal scorer, but can’t really shoot in a 3 point driven league. Andre Roberson is invisible on offense. Steven Adams is overrated because he’s a badass who looks like Aqua Man and is one of the more notable enforcers in the League. And then you got Enes Kanter, who’s NBA career is notable for absolutely nothing. Oh, and Douggy McBuckets comes off the bench.
So yeah, Russ is surrounded by a bunch of pretty average to below average NBA players, and is the reason they made the playoffs.
Big. Fuckin. Deal.
What does a playoff berth even mean in today’s NBA anyway?
The best teams sit their best players many times throughout the regular season. There’s no chance you’ll see LeBron touch the court for all 82 games. When was the last time Pop let his starters play a full season? Golden State can sit their starters for 10 full games and still be the 1 seed in the West.
The best teams don’t give a damn about the regular season. They don’t even seem to care about the 1st round and 2nd round of the playoffs. Did anyone really think the Cavs and Warriors weren’t going to make their Conference Finals with ease? It was almost a foregone conclusion that the Finals were going to be a rematch of the previous 2 years. The fans knew it, and so did the players.
Which leads me to say that winning should play a major factor in the MVP award. I know, I know. It’s a regular season award. But value in the NBA means wins, not stats.
At the end of the season, Russ was worth a 6 seed, and 1 playoff win. Now, as I said before, he did this with a barren roster doing most of the heavy lifting himself. But are you really going to tell me that this makes him the most valuable NBA player?
Let’s pretend every NBA player was a free agent right now, and there was no salary cap, but every player had to sign a one year deal. Would you give Russ the most money of any player in the League? Would he even crack your top 5?
The correct answer is no.
LeBron. KD. Steph. Kawhi.
Those 4 players right there are one hundred and ten percent more valuable than Russ, and I can even argue for guys like Draymond, Klay, and Kyrie.
And I understand the argument against them is that their teams are so strong that they can’t possibly be more valuable than Russ. But since when does “most valuable” exist in a vaccuum?
Those players individual talent is what comprises their team’s greatness; the Warriors aren’t amazing just because the Death Lineup exists, but because each player in the Death Lineup is so unbelievably talented, that it makes them almost unbeatable, displaying the true value of each of those players, and resulting in the most wins this past season, and the Championship.
So, Russell Westbrook may have won the 2016-2017 NBA MVP award, but he is not the NBA’s most valuable player.