If Russell Westbrook wins this season’s MVP award, it’ll change the trajectory of what the award will mean for others in the future, because he doesn’t deserve it.
I don’t mean to take anything away from Westbrook. He’s been playing great offensive basketball, worthy of the attention he’s gotten. But if the biggest reason people think he’s the MVP is the triple-double stat line, it’s worth a deeper look.
You can’t argue with the points, Russ is a scoring machine and a point guard who commands the ball at all times. A shoot-first dynamo. But what about his other stats that fill out that triple-double state line?
Let’s take a closer look.
It’s certainly impressive that he’s averaging more than 10 assists a game… but is he really? Look at his home-road splits.
Westbrook is averaging a monster 11.3 assists per game at home while that number is just 9.5 on the road. Talking about stat stuffing, the home scorekeepers at Oklahoma City Thunder games are gifting Westbrook nearly two dimes a game!
If you don’t think this is absolute home cooking from the home team, look at the splits from two other MVP candidates: Kawhi Leonard and James Harden. Each of those guys average about the same number of assists on the road as they do at home. The same can be said for LeBron James.
Some guy sitting at the scorer’s table could have as much to do with the MVP race as anybody on the court. That’s ridiculous.
Next: Westbrook’s rebounding numbers. It’s hard for me to argue that it’s a bad thing that the Thunder work really hard to get Russell Westbrook uncontested rebounds. This has largely been a knock against him. But I’m actually gonna fight back on that.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here it is: Westbrook is No. 1 in the NBA in terms of uncontested rebounds per game. A lot of people point to the fact that his teammates box out on free throw attempts so that the little guy can stuff his stats.
But I’m not buying it.
James Harden does it too. You know why that’s good strategy? Because they’re both explosive point guards whose teams are best suited to get them the ball as quickly as possible.
The last thing any opposing defense wants to see is Westbrook or Harden grab a rebound and go full steam ahead into the paint.
The big problem I have with Westbrook’s rebounding numbers is that many of those rebounds come because he’s playing awful defense.
Now the way you get rebounds is to be in the paint when the shot goes up. If you’re wondering how a point guard does that when it’s not a free throw, it’s by leaving guys wide open for uncontested jumpers and three-pointers.
With the final numbers in, Russell Westbrook, a point guard who should be spending time on the perimeter guarding shooters, has contested just 127 three-pointers all season.
He purposely leaves guys wide open every game to drift to the paint and grab rebounds.
To put that number in perspective, David Lee and LaMarcus Aldridge have contested more three-pointers this season than Russell Westbrook despite playing hundreds of minutes fewer than Westbrook and being mainly situated in the paint on defense.
Westbrook’s defense on these possessions is so bad, he would be immediately benched if he played for Gregg Popovich. We see Pop do this all the time. If you miss a defensive assignment and it leads to an easy bucket, your sub is already headed to check in before the ball gets across half court.
Finally, the reason that the MVP race is such an interesting discussion is the V: Valuable. What value does Westbrook have if the team would almost be better off tanking and hoping for a great, game-changing draft so that the franchise can blow everything up and start over under the new salary cap?
Right now, the ceiling for the Thunder is the second round of the playoffs. If they’re lucky and everything goes their way, they may make it to the Western Conference Finals. But if your team has no shot at a championship, what’s the point of a stat-stuffing, terrible defender who carries you to 47 wins without making anyone around him better?
That doesn’t sound very valuable to me.